Researchers from Cardiff University and the Sapienza University of Rome concluded in a research that the higher a person’s internet speed, the less likely they are to join communities through volunteering, politics, or other forms of civic engagement.
Fabio Sabatini, one of the authors of the study published in the Journal of Public Economics, said, “We observed that civic participation, the way in which voluntary organizations participate in their activities, and political participation decrease with proximity to an internet connection.”
For example, participation in political parties dropped by 19 percent for every 1.8 kilometers a person reached faster internet access. Volunteering in social care fell by 10 percent among people who took advantage of the faster internet.
The researchers used communications regulator Ofcom’s knowledge of exchange centers and various internet speeds in the study and cross-referenced this data with the responses provided.
Also, union participation decreased by only 3.6 percent, while volunteering in organizations providing social or environmental services decreased by 7.8 percent, according to the survey.
Sabatini also expressed his view in his study that Britain’s lack of public participation may be directly linked to the rise of populism in politics:
“The rise of populism is linked to a decline in interest in public affairs. We thought that because they are less politically and socially active, people cannot interpret political events well and do not fully understand the complexity of the management of public affairs.
The research revealed that the only thing that wasn’t significantly affected by a person’s internet access speed was the personal interaction with family and friends. These relationships appear to be resistant to technological change.”