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The term netizen is a portmanteau of the English words internet and citizen,[1] as in a "citizen of the net" or "net citizen".[2][3][4] It describes a person[5] actively involved in online communities or the Internet in general.[6][7]

The term also commonly implies an interest and active engagement in improving the internet, making it an intellectual and a social resource,[5] or its surrounding political structures, especially in regard to open access, net neutrality and free speech.[8] The term was widely adopted in the mid-1990s as a way to describe those who inhabit the new geography of the internet.[9] Internet pioneer and author Michael F. Hauben is credited with coining and popularizing the term.[5][10][11][12][13]

Determining factor[edit]

In general, any individual who has access to the internet has the potential to be classified as a netizen. In the 21st century, this is made possible by the global connectivity of the internet. People can physically be located in one country but connected to most of the world via a global network.[12]

There is a clear distinction between netizens and people who come online to use the internet. A netizen is described as an individual who actively seek to contribute to the development of the internet.[14] Netizens are not individuals who go online for personal gain or profit, but instead actively seeks to make the internet a better place.[15][12]

A term used to classify internet users who do not actively contribute to the development of the internet is "lurker". Lurkers cannot be classified as netizens, as although they do not actively harm the internet, they do not contribute either.[16][17][18]

Besides, lurkers seemed to be more critical of the technological elements enabling communities whereas posters appeared to be more critical of users who hampered community creation by making rude or unpleasant comments. Additionally, discussions indicate that both lurkers and posters had distinct motives for lurking and might modify their engagement behaviours based on how they understand the community from various online groups, despite the fact that engagement between those who post and those who lurk was different in the communities studied.[19]

In China[edit]

In Mandarin Chinese, the terms wǎngmín (simplified Chinese: 网民; traditional Chinese: 網民, literally "netizen" or "net folks") and wǎngyǒu (simplified Chinese: 网友; traditional Chinese: 網友, literally "net friend" or "net mate") are commonly used terms meaning "internet users", and the English word netizen is used by mainland China-based English language media to translate both terms, resulting in the frequent appearance of that English word in media reporting about China, far more frequently than the use of the word in other contexts.[20][21]

Netizen Prize[edit]

The international nonprofit organisation Reporters Without Borders awards an annual Netizen Prize in recognition to an internet user, blogger, cyber-dissident, or group who has helped to promote freedom of expression on the internet.[22][23][24] The organisation uses the term when describing the political repression of cyber-dissidents such as legal consequences of blogging in politically repressive environments.

Psychological studies[edit]

With time, more and more people have started interacting and building communities online. The effect it has on human psychology and life is of major interest and concern to researchers. Several studies are being done on netizens under the name Netizens’ Psychology. [25][26] Problems are internet addiction, mental health, outrage, and the effect on kids' development are some of the many problems netizen psychology tries to focus on.[27]

See also[edit]

  • Digital citizen – citizens (of the physical space) using the Internet as a tool in order to engage in society, politics, and government participation[28]
  • Digital native – a person who has grown up in the information age
  • Netiquette – social conventions for online communities
  • Cyberspace – the new societal territory that is inhabited by Netizens
  • Information Age
  • Internet age
  • Network society
  • Active citizenship – the concept that citizens have certain roles and responsibilities to society and the environment and should actively participate
  • Social Age
  • List of Internet pioneers – those who helped erect the theoretical and technological foundation of the Internet (instead of improving its content, utility or political aspects)
  • Participatory culture – a culture in which the public does not act merely as consumers and voters, but also as contributors, producers and active participants


  1. ^ Tyler Vendetti (March 3, 2020). The Illustrated Compendium of Weirdly Specific Words: Including Bumbledom, Jumentous, Spaghettification, and More. Simon and Schuster. pp. 70–. ISBN 978-1-73251-266-5. Archived from the original on May 7, 2021. Retrieved March 28, 2021.
  2. ^ Seese, Michael (2009). Scrappy Information Security. Happy About. p. 130. ISBN 978-1600051326. Archived from the original on September 5, 2017. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
  3. ^ Hauben, Michael. "The Expanding Commonwealth of Learning: Printing and the Net". columbia.edu. Archived from the original on May 1, 2017. Retrieved June 5, 2015.
  4. ^ Hauben, Michael F. (November 24, 1995). "The Netizens and Community Networks - Presented at the Hypernetwork '95 Beppu Bay Conference". Archived from the original on October 9, 2018. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  5. ^ a b c DeLoach, Amelia (September 1996). "What Does it Mean to be a Netizen?". Archived from the original on January 11, 1997. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  6. ^ netizen Archived April 21, 2012, at the Wayback Machine, Dictionary.com
  7. ^ The Net and Netizens by Michael Hauben Archived June 4, 2011, at the Wayback Machine, Columbia University.
  8. ^ "What is netizen? definition". Archived from the original on April 29, 2012. Retrieved October 2, 2011.
  9. ^ Thompson, Steven John (April 30, 2014). Global Issues and Ethical Considerations in Human Enhancement Technologies. IGI Global. p. 4. ISBN 978-1466660106. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  10. ^ Butler, Simon. "Michael F. Hauben". c250.columbia.edu. Archived from the original on August 14, 2016. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  11. ^ Hauben, Ronda. "Internet PIONEER Michael Hauben". edu-cyberpg.com. Archived from the original on January 22, 2020. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  12. ^ a b c Horvath, John (July 27, 2001). "Death of a Netizen". Heise Online. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  13. ^ Orlowski, Andrew (June 30, 2001). "Michael Hauben, Netizen mati, dies". The Register. Archived from the original on August 10, 2017. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  14. ^ "What is a Netizen?". Easy Tech Junkie. Retrieved August 31, 2022.
  15. ^ Hauben, Michael; Hauben, Ronda (May 11, 1997). "Preface: What is a Netizen". Netizens: On the History and Impact of Usenet and the Internet (PDF). Wiley. pp. 2–3. ISBN 978-0-8186-7706-9. Archived (PDF) from the original on February 12, 2017. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  16. ^ DeLoach, Amelia (September 1996). "What is a Netizen?". Archived from the original on July 10, 2015. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  17. ^ "The need for a Netizens Association". March 1996. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
  18. ^ Hauben, Michael; Hauben, Ronda (November 1995). "What is a Netizen?". First Monday. doi:10.5210/fm.v3i7.606. Archived from the original on July 9, 2015. Retrieved July 8, 2015.
  19. ^ Zhu, Jiawen; Dawson, Kara (April 5, 2023). "Differences in sense of community and participation between lurkers and posters in informal online education-related communities". Behaviour & Information Technology. 43 (5): 929–942. doi:10.1080/0144929x.2023.2196571. ISSN 0144-929X. S2CID 257993277.
  20. ^ Brian Fung, "'Netizen': Why Is This Goofy-Sounding Word So Important in China? Archived November 16, 2017, at the Wayback Machine", The Atlantic, 11 October 2012
  21. ^ Matt Schiavenza, "Enough with the word "Netizen" Archived July 29, 2018, at the Wayback Machine", The Atlantic, 25 September 2013
  22. ^ "World Day Against Cyber-Censorship: new "Enemies of the Internet" list". rsf.org. March 11, 2011. Archived from the original on June 28, 2015. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  23. ^ "Netizen Prize 2012: nominees". February 27, 2012. Archived from the original on April 21, 2015. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  24. ^ Manea, Elham (November 5, 2014). "Reporters Without Borders award Raif Badawi the Netizen Prize for 2014". gmablog.org. Archived from the original on February 15, 2019. Retrieved June 6, 2015.
  25. ^ 'Netizens’ Psychological Behavior Analysis under Information Technology Background' Archived April 12, 2021, at the Wayback Machine, Atlantis Press
  26. ^ Chen Chen; Honglu Liu; Xiaolan Guan (2015). "The research on psychological type of netizens in internet public opinion's embryonic stage: A case study of Malaysia Airlines loss of communication". 2015 International Conference on Logistics, Informatics and Service Sciences (LISS). pp. 1–5. doi:10.1109/LISS.2015.7369798. ISBN 978-1-4799-1891-1. S2CID 17046843.
  27. ^ "Research on Relationship Among Internet-Addiction, Personality Traits and Mental Health of Urban Left-Behind Children".
  28. ^ Mossberger, Karen. "Digital Citizenship - The Internet, Society and Participation" by Karen Mossberger, Caroline J. Tolbert, and Ramona S. McNeal. 23 November 2011. ISBN 978-0819456069

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