A lack of diversity has influenced the development of the internet in several ways. One way is that it has led to the development of homogeneous online communities, which can harm societies and individuals. For example, online communities lacking diversity can be echo chambers where people only see and hear information that reinforces their beliefs. This can further entrenchment of prejudices and bigotry and make it difficult for people to see different perspectives. While it is true that there are many positive benefits to diversity, such as increased innovation and intensified competition, there is also plenty of research that shows that diversity can hold negative effects on societies. For example, racial, cultural, and religious differences can cause tension in communities that would not be present if they were more homogenous (Athanasiou et al., 2018). We have also seen instances where women in various fields experience discrimination or bullying because they do not possess the same ability as their male counterparts. The level of diversity in various fields can be demonstrated below;
nature.com/articles/s41599-022-01268-4 by Mostafa Radwan is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Retrieved from: nature.com/articles/s41599-022-01268-4
Algorithms are often designed by people, not representative of the population, which can make them biased. For example, algorithms that are used to recommend content to users often end up recommending content similar to what the user has already consumed, reinforcing people’s existing beliefs and making it difficult for them to find new information (Hagendorff, 2020). Additionally, algorithms can be used to target ads and content to users, further reinforcing people’s existing beliefs and preferences.
Algorithms can also cause harm by providing misleading information to people. These algorithms are often designed to support their designers’ positions, which means there is a risk that the algorithms will provide false or misleading information if a person has a different worldview from their designer. For example, Facebook’s Trending Topics section was designed to promote stories that are popular amongst Facebook’s users, but it was found to be promoting fake news stories and conspiracy theories (Athanasiou et al., 2018). This situation could have been avoided if the people designing the algorithm had a different worldview from their designers. Therefore, this has influenced the development of the internet through the design of algorithms.
The development of the internet causes people to self-segregate into online communities based on their identity. For example, people who identify as LGBTQ+ may seek out online communities specifically for LGBTQ+ people (Athanasiou et al., 2018). While nothing is wrong with this, it can lead to people only interacting with others who share their identity, making it difficult for them to understand and empathize with different people. Ultimately, this can harm societies and individuals in several ways. It can lead to the development of homogeneous online communities, which can reinforce people’s prejudices and make it difficult for them to find new information.
In addition to entrenchment, diverse online communities encourage online members to be more inclusive of differing viewpoints. Online communities must have diverse political ideologies and views to do their job properly. Online communication with individuals from different backgrounds can result in new ideas that are more enriching and help people to better understand the world around us. Diversity can help people to challenge the ideas that others hold about different groups and encourage them to rethink those ideas (Paulus, Ohmann, Von Gontard, & Popow, 2018). This can lead to a more diverse society in the future, which will benefit all its citizens. The lack of diversity on the internet also has a few negative effects on society for various individuals. This can be seen in the picture below;
How to Keep Up With Internet Culture in Just 10 Minutes Per Day by Dakota Shane is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Retrieved from: https://medium.com/the-mission/how-to-keep-up-with-internet-culture-in-just-10-minutes-per-day-601ef47c4597
Diverse communities on the internet have been shown to contribute to the progression of human rights. For example, in December 2017, roughly a month after the Trump administration banned trans people from military service, a trans woman named Mackenzie Stone spoke at length about her experience as an Air Force officer during a panel at TechWomen17. Trans people not part of the community that this panel references often struggle to find support and understanding from those in positions of power within their communities. Without Mackenzie’s presence on that panel, likely, this would not have happened, and she would still be working as a trans woman in the Air Force today, which was done through the presence of the internet. As shown in the picture below, the internet diversity experienced in society influences the types of decisions made and how people relate to each other.
https://techcrunch.com/2019/06/17/the-future-of-diversity-and-inclusion-in-tech/ by Megan Rose Dickey is licensed under CC BY 2.0. Retrieved from: nature.com/articles/s41599-022-01268-4
The internet is known for being a platform where many people can come together to share content, ideas, information, and opinions. The internet has an international scope due to its global reach. Nevertheless, there is one thing that the internet lacks: diversity. Research from 2017 has shown that the number of online users is predominantly white or Asian males between 35-54 years old with a high school education or less (Shek, Zhu, & Dou, 2019). This lack of diversity in terms of gender, age range, education level, or culture has influenced how society views information gathering on the internet and what people choose to read online. The lack of diversity has enabled the spread of hate speech, propaganda, and fake news due to the lack of perspective and understanding backed by research or fact. This phenomenon has allowed many people to be misinformed about sensitive topics such as immigration and race relations (Shek, Zhu, & Dou, 2019). For example, in some European countries, racism is a large problem that is not adequately addressed for unknown reasons. Studies have shown that this problem can be solved by learning about other cultures and gaining understanding from differing perspectives. People have learned something about how a lack of diversity can influence the development of society as we know it. The first thing that people can do is try to be more open-minded. For example, if you are a Republican, try to listen and understand what a Democrat has to say. This may not make you change your mind, but at the very least, you will better understand their point of view.
Additionally, another thing that can be done is try to stop dismissing or criticizing people based on their identity. For example, if someone is LGBTQ+, instead of negatively judging or criticizing them for it, try to understand why they are that way and why they choose to identify as such (Athanasiou et al., 2018). While these problems are not exactly surprising, it is still worth examining why these problems exist in the first place. One of the biggest reasons for the lack of diversity in online communities is that most people tend to use the internet as a source of information. Because of this, they are more likely to surround themselves with like-minded people and avoid individuals who are different from them. This tendency is not surprising if you think about it. After all, most people probably use the internet as a source of information because they want to find new ways of thinking about things that interest them. After all, they rely on outside sources for their current beliefs.
The lack of diversity on the internet has caused both societies and individuals to be affected. The lack of ethnicities on the internet has caused stereotypes that hinder individuals and prevent issues such as sexism, racism, and other forms of discrimination from being addressed. On the contrary, a diverse population on the internet would allow a proper understanding that could avoid these negative occurrences. Lastly, there is an additional issue with online job applications where affirmative action is not required to hire minorities. However, they are still denied jobs due to containing words like nigger or taco bender. Lack of diversity has been critical in influencing the development of the internet, thus leading to some harmful effects on societies.
Athanasiou, K., Melegkovits, E., Andrie, E. K., Magoulas, C., Tzavara, C. K., Richardson, C., & Tsitsika, A. K. (2018). Cross-national aspects of cyberbullying victimization among 14–17-year-old adolescents across seven European countries. BMC public health, 18(1), 1-15. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1186/s12889-018-5682-4
Dickey, M. R (2019). The Future of Diversity and Inclusion in Tech. Where the industry needs to go from here. https://techcrunch.com/2019/06/17/the-future-of-diversity-and-inclusion-in-tech/
Hagendorff, T. (2020). The ethics of AI ethics: An evaluation of guidelines. Minds and Machines, 30(1), 99-120. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11023-020-09517-8
Paulus, F. W., Ohmann, S., Von Gontard, A., & Popow, C. (2018). Internet gaming disorder in children and adolescents: a systematic review. Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology, 60(7), 645-659. https://scholar.google.com/scholar?output=instlink&q=info:4DrT0wwClqUJ:scholar.google.com/&hl=en&as_sdt=0,5&as_ylo=2018&scillfp=10323498278182335566&oi=lle\
Radwan, M. Effect of social media usage on the cultural identity of rural people: a case study of Bamha village, Egypt. Humanit Soc Sci Commun 9, 248 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41599-022-01268-4
Shek, D. T., Zhu, X., & Dou, D. (2019). Influence of family processes on internet addiction among late adolescents in Hong Kong. Frontiers in psychiatry, 10, 113. https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00113/full
Shane, D. (2017). How to Keep Up with Internet Culture in Just 10 Minutes per Day. The internet relevance. https://medium.com/the-mission/how-to-keep-up-with-internet-culture-in-just-10-minutes-per-day-601ef47c4597
McCarthy, P. (2022). How Big Tech has Crushed Online Diversity. Grandstand Platforms. https://cosmosmagazine.com/technology/internet/online-lack-diversity/#:~:text=In%20reality%2C%20online%20diversity%20is,of%20all%20web%20searches%20worldwide.
Marcus, B. (2015). The Lack of Diversity in Tech is A Cultural Issue https://www.forbes.com/sites/bonniemarcus/2015/08/12/the-lack-of-diversity-in-tech-is-a-cultural-issue/?sh=382e9eef79a2