Online civility deteriorated in the second year of the pandemic, claims Microsoft

The ongoing pandemic has undeniably been a test of endurance for everyone. While outdoor activity and interactions have decreased, online engagement has been on the rise not only in professional domain, but across personal life as well. That said, this may not have resulted in a net-positive behavior as a Microsoft research now reports that online civility actually deteriorated going into the second year of the pandemic.

A digital hand holding a digital representation of the globe
Image via Rusbase

Microsoft surveyed 11,067 respondents spread across 22 countries in 2021 - which is the second and ongoing year of the pandemic considering most countries started enforcing stricter measures in early 2020. People aged 13-74 were surveyed about their experience when it comes to 21 online risks spread across four categories, namely sexual, reputational, behavioral, and personal.

The survey's results revealed that 82% of the countries had experienced net-worse online civility during the pandemic. Only four of the 22 surveyed countries showed a net-positive change, namely Columbia, Peru, Mexico, and India. Meanwhile, countries like Germany, Italy, Poland, Philippines, and Hungary reported the steepest net-negativity, as can be seen in the graphic from Microsoft below:

A digital civility graph for 2021 by Microsoft
Image via Microsoft

Only 17% of respondents claimed that digital civility improved during COVID-19, while 30% claimed that it actually decreased. These numbers were at 26% and 22% respectively in 2020. Meanwhile, the trend for digital positivity such as people helping each other online dropped to 56% compared to 67% last year according to these respondents as well. Other notable statistics include:

  • “A greater sense of community” tumbled 12 percentage points to 50% from 62% in 2020;
  • “People have been more encouraging to each other” dropped eight percentage points to 49% from 57% last year; and
  • “People have come together more to deal with the crisis” was down six percentage points to 53% from 59% in the previous study.
  • People are taking out their frustrations online” was up seven percentage points to 67%;
  • “People are less tolerant” edged up to 59% from 54% last year; and
  • 54% of respondents said they had experienced or witnessed more personal attacks and negative comments this year compared to 53% in 2020.

The trends reported by Microsoft are certainly disappointing and something for us to ponder and improve upon as a global community. The company says that it will reveal the full report on the international Safer Internet Day 2022 on February 8, 2022.

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