Anyone who has spent time on Twitter or has waded into the comments section on YouTube knows that the Internet is full of cyberbullies and bickering hordes.
While social media may feel like a trash heap at times, Microsoft released a new study on Tuesday that claims civility is spreading on the Internet… at least slightly. Microsoft’s Digital Civility Index fell two points, to 66, in 2018, signaling that Internet users around the world are treating each other slightly better, although there’s still plenty of room for improvement. The closer the index is to zero, the more civil people are toward each other.
The survey measured the perceptions of teens and adults in 22 countries about their online experiences and the risks they face when spending time online. If the news that the internet is apparently becoming more civil comes as a surprise, U.S. readers may want to hold onto their seats. The civility index in the U.S. fell ten points in the past year to 51, showing the biggest improvement, according to a blog post from Microsoft.
But there was a dark side to the results. Microsoft’s research found people were experiencing more consequences of online harassment, bullying, and unwanted contact. People reported losing sleep, feeling more stressed, and becoming less trustful of people both online and off. Each negative consequence increased three to four points in 2018.
Though it seems there’s a reason why people are feeling like the Internet is slightly more civil than it was in 2017: they’re starting to unplug more. The survey found that 27% of people—a 4% increase—said all of the negativity has prompted them to spend less time participating on social media and blogs