The Impact of the Internet on Society and Marketing

Some eight thousand years ago a hunter paused across an open field, as he surveys the abundant fields of fruits and vegetables cultivated by neighbouring tribes, providing food for their tribes in the hard winter to come. Seven thousand nine hundred and fifty years later room-sized mega-computers started to fill institutions in the world and 2 years ago a shack-dwelling student in Soweto followed a page on Facebook.

Today I am looking back to look forward, for, as de Toqueville observed, “As the past has ceased to throw its light upon the future, the mind of man wanders in obscurity.” We have to think using our memories of the past, but our actions take place in the present, and define the future.

So, what are the similarities in the three strange occurrences described above?

What we’ve just examined explains three of the four most impactful Social Revolutions during the course of recorded human history. So, how are Social Revolutions applicable to the impact of the Internet today?

Social Revolutions

The term “revolution” has been used in the broader context of history to also denote greater changes outside of just the political sphere. Such revolutions are recognized through their transformation of more than just the political (As was the case with the French revolution) but rather societal, cultural, philosophical as well as technological. Some can be global, while others are limited to single countries. One of the classic examples of the usage of the word revolution in such context is the industrial revolution (note that such revolutions also fit the “slow revolution” definition of Tocqueville). Looking at the above we can understand how the internet has “transformed society” and affects us on a global scale. Social revolutions are also characterises by the transitional nature of phases between revolutions as well as the rate of increase of adoption of subsequent revolutions.

If we then examine the time it has taken for each revolution to take place it can be deduced that the Internet and Social revolutions combined have taken less than five thousands of the time than agricultural revolution has taken.

Figure 1: Time Relative to Each Social Revolution

The Impact of the Internet

The Main considerations of the impact of the emergence of the internet are based around the socio-ecological elements as a whole, but on the following aspects in particular:

  • Nature of Work: Remote Work, physical traffic and driving patterns, business conglomerates and resource sharing and allocations, social interactions, Globalisation
  • Privacy: Legal and law enforcements haven’t had time to adapt to new technologies.  Sacrifices in privacy in exchange for getting connected socially and to the cloud
  • Ownership: Does ownership ‘now’ still equal physical possession. Who owns the thoughts in the cloud?
  • Security: Whilst it is certain that security technologies will continue to improve, it is at least, if not more, important to reassure consumers that the online interactions in which we engage are secure.
  • Environmental: Rate of climate change. Waste material and recycling. NGO and activist participation. Green Technologies
  • Co-dependence: The creation of geo-tribes and localised centres of interest. Are we becoming co-dependent to affirm our existence? New notions of belonging, new modes of distribution of information (media), new management models and economics, neo-tribalism: all will be accelerated by this shiftiness in social scale.
  • Convergence: Technological convergence. Convergence of use.
  • Marketing: Content Consumption Model, Marketing Research, Access to the Long-Tail, New Channels, Niche engagement, Brands become consumer-facing and removed-from-the-board, Social Media

We have reached a critical “tipping point”. Moving forward the internet and social media will light up even the farthest corners of human existence, the individual will become the new group, small will be the new big and links will be the new news. Everything will live in the cloud, and the cloud will become the only required touch point to access everything.

All I can say, as William Bison wrote, is that “The future is already here. It is just unequally distributed”