In the previous session at ESOMAR Fusion 2018 in Dublin, we addressed the following question: does the Internet make us happier? On this occasion, we uncovered that happy and unhappy people have completely different online behaviours. The former use the Internet as a means of performing real life tasks: travelling, refurbishing their abode, taking care of their children, etc., while the latter use the Internet as an end in itself. They spend significantly more time on social networks, on streaming and adult websites, to mention but a few differences. Moreover, unhappy people spend overall 20% more time online.
At this stage, what was supposed to be a "nice to have" study appeared to be of far more importance with regards to its insightfulness. Heavy internet users and heavy social networks visitors are the perfect target for fake news. We dug deeper and discovered discrepancies in their political behaviours: they are more attracted to extreme parties and they are over-represented among non-voters. Is this related to their usage of the internet? Does it mean that there is a connection between social networks and political behaviour? Or so to put it another way, are social networks, and in particular Facebook, a threat or an opportunity for our Western democracies? A threat, if it means that through fake news and other manipulation techniques, it can influence political opinions, as well as the result of elections. An opportunity if it improves the content of debates, the exchange of ideas, the collective intelligence and if it leads to better decisions and enables communities to unite.