Technology

Half of Britons ask questions online first over fear of judgment – poll

Sexuality, gender identity and disability are the topics people are most afraid to ask about, the study suggests.

Half of Britons search online first for answers on certain topics before asking another person directly over fears of judgment or causing offence, according to a poll.

Sexuality, gender identity and disability are the matters people are most afraid to ask about, a Google-commissioned YouGov study suggests, with only 15% stating they often ask people personal questions.

Those aged over 55 appear to be the least comfortable (42%), compared with younger generations aged between 18 and 24 (50%).

Of the 3,032 adults surveyed, almost half (48%) said searching online allowed them to ask a question without judgment.

A third (31%) indicated they are unsure how best to approach a topic, while 36% are fearful of being offensive to another person.

It comes as Google – which recently launched the ItsOKToAsk campaign – revealed that “what does lgbtq stand for?” is among the most searched sexuality-related questions in the last 12 months, alongside “is autism a disability?” and “how many religions are there?” on matters of disability and religion.

Despite this, the research suggests that people are open to being asked some questions, with family-related experiences (33%) and age-related experiences (32%) top of the list that people wished others would ask them questions directly about.

Two-thirds (67%) who identified as having a disability said they would appreciate it if people asked them about their disability, while 49% of people who identify as LGBTQIA+ would welcome questions directly about their gender-related experiences.

“Topics such as sexuality, religion and disability – those that people are most worried to approach – can be ‘hidden’ and associated with bias, so we may fear being seen to be making assumptions about another person’s lifestyle,” said Professor Sophie Scott, director at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience at University College London.

“However, as the Google Search research shows, it’s very important to ask questions to make people feel like they matter.

“We want to tell people our stories, to feel heard and understood and seen.

“Being ignored is far worse for our mental state and finding areas of common ground can be very positive for people’s sense of a social connection with someone else.”

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