Social media and networks in health and social care
Social media and networks in health and social care

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1 The internet

The internet is:

a global network of computers that works much like the postal system, only at sub-second speeds. Just as the postal service enables people to send one another envelopes containing messages, the internet enables computers to send one another small packets of digital data.

(BBC, 2014)

Almost all adults (91%) in the UK use the internet and adults with disabilities are increasing their use of the internet too (78% of those with reported disability use the internet). Adults aged 65 years or over who report using the internet is also increasing year-on-year (Office of National Statistics (ONS), 2019a). Email is one of the most common uses of the internet used by adults in Great Britain (86%) and 63% of adults report using the internet to search for health-related information. Other popular uses of the internet include internet banking, reading news, making calls and using social media (ONS, 2019b). Over 84% of adults use the internet via a mobile or smartphone (ONS, 2019a).

Activity 1 Top five uses of the internet

Drag and drop these uses of the internet in order of popularity.

Using the following two lists, match each numbered item with the correct letter.

  1. Sending and receiving emails

  2. Finding information about goods or services

  3. Internet banking

  4. Reading the news

  5. Making video or voice calls

  • a.1.

  • b.5.

  • c.3.

  • d.2.

  • e.4.

The correct answers are:
  • 1 = a
  • 2 = d
  • 3 = c
  • 4 = e
  • 5 = b


The top five uses of the internet by percentage of adults over 16 years of age are:

  1. Sending and receiving emails (86%)
  2. Finding information about goods or services (78%)
  3. Internet banking (73%)
  4. Reading online news (66%)
  5. Making video or voice calls (50%)

Figure 1 shows the top five uses of the internet between 2009 and 2019 (ONS, 2019b). The maroon lines show the figures for the year 2019 and the blue are from 2009. You will see that over the course of the decade the use of the internet dramatically increased.

The graphic shows five internet activities and the percentage of adults in Great Britain who engage with them, year 2009 compared with 2019. The five activities and the percentages in 2009 and 2019 are: Sending and receiving emails: 2009 – 68%, 2019 – 86%; Finding information about goods and services: 2009 – 59%, 2019 – 59%; Internet banking: 2009 – 41%, 2019 – 73%; Reading online news, newspapers or magazines: 2009 – 39%, 2019 – 66%; Making video or voice calls over the internet (e.g. Skype or Facetime): 2009 – 16%, 2019 – 50%.
Figure 1 Internet activities within the last three months, Great Britain, 2009 and 2019.

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