Imagine I told you the following statistics;
- From 2013 to 2014, the total percent of high school class reunions organized online jumped from 47 percent to 76 percent. In 2015, this figure rose to 90 percent. While falling to 43 percent in 2016, it rose again to 83 percent of cases as of September 2017.
- More than four in 10 class reunion attendees in the United States in the past 15 years either maintained a social media account where they posted material about reunions or interacted with classmates; in recent years, an active online presence has been almost universal among reunion planners and attendees.
- In 129 cases surveyed, we found zero high school class reunions were planned in person. Of the 129 cases, 101 showed a pattern of often downloading and sharing information online and, in a smaller number of cases, engaging in online conversations about class reunions.
- Instead, planners were sometimes in touch via Twitter or other messaging platforms. High schools in many cases offered support online, and staff communicated with the planners. Many attendees were not graduates of the schools in question, but instead were later revealed to have close ties with those who were.
Would you be surprised?
I hope not.
You might wonder why anyone bothered asking the question, given that internet usage and social media is universal nowadays.
OK, now look at a slightly different analysis, by the New America Foundation ;
- “From 2013 to 2014, the total percent of… extremists who radicalized online jumped from 47 percent to 76 percent. In 2015, this figure rose to 90 percent. While falling to 43 percent in 2016, it rose again to 83 percent of cases as of September 2017.”
- “Today’s extremists in the United States radicalize online, and the internet knows no visa requirements. More than four in 10 jihadists in the United States since 9/11 either maintained a social media account where they posted jihadist material or interacted with extremists via encrypted communications; in recent years, an active online presence has been almost universal among American jihadists.”
- “A key characteristic that ties together American militants drawn to the Syrian conflict is that they are active in online jihadist circles. Of the 129 individuals, 101 showed a pattern of often downloading and sharing jihadist propaganda online and, in a smaller number of cases, engaging in online conversations with militants abroad.”
- “ ISIS and its affiliates have also reached out via online communication to encourage and enable attacks. There are attacks by individuals and small groups of individuals who do not have any known link to ISIS, its affiliates or its online networks, yet who are inspired by ISIS and its cause to commit acts of violence.”
Does it matter that Jihadis use the internet? Yes. But we can stop pretending to be surprised that they have taken to using a nearly universal tool. Instead, we can treat the internet the way we do any other domain; it can be used for good and bad things, and it’s unlikely that you can do much about the latter without affecting the former.