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Internet Displacing Sex and Friends in US

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The Internet has become America’s newest addiction. In a JWT survey that as of this hour hasn’t been widely reported in the US, more than a quarter of the participants said they had cut back on in person interaction to spend more time on the Web.

Admittedly, there is a big element of self-selection in this sample, since the poll was conducted online. Nevertheless, it suggests that the Internet can easily become a compulsion and American may be more susceptible by virtue of their weak social ties.

From Australia’s IT News:

Surfing the net has become an obsession for many Americans with the majority of U.S. adults feeling they cannot go for a week without going online and one in three giving up friends and sex for the Web.

A survey asked 1,011 American adults how long they would feel OK without going on the Web, to which 15 percent said a just a day or less, 21 percent said a couple of days and another 19 percent said a few days.

Only a fifth of those who took part in an online survey conducted by advertising agency JWT between Sept 7 and 11 said they could go for a week.

“People told us how anxious, isolated and bored they felt when they are forced off line,” said Ann Mack, director of trend spotting at JWT, which conducted the survey to see how technology was changing people’s behavior.

“They felt disconnected from the world, from their friends and family,” she told Reuters.

The poll, released on Wednesday, found the use of cell phones and the Internet were becoming more and more an essential part of life with 48 percent of respondents agreeing they felt something important was missing without Internet access.

More than a quarter of respondents — or 28 percent — admitted spending less time socializing face-to-face with peers because of the amount of time they spend online.

It also found that 20 percent said they spend less time having sex because they are online.

Cell phones won out over television in a question asking which device people couldn’t go without but the Internet trumped all, regarded as the most necessary.

“It is taking away from offline activities, among them having sex, socializing face-to-face, watching TV and reading newspapers and magazines. It cuts into that share,” said Mack.

“I don’t suppose their partners are too pleased about it.”

Mack said a clear trend to emerge from the survey was the increasing need for mobility with people no longer satisfied with just broadband access from home and wanting hand-held devices like iPhones and BlackBerrys.

JWT, whose parent company is WPP, has come up with a new advertising category for people whose lives are so tied up with new technology.

“We are calling them ‘digitivity denizens,’ those who see their cell phones as an extension of themselves, whose online and offline lives are co-mingled and who would chose a Wi-Fi connection over TV any day,” said Mack.

“This is how they communicate, entertain and live.”

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2 comments

  1. Anonymous

    Yves,

    Playing devil’s advocate, I think that technology actually keeps people more in touch than they used to be. Communication technology bridges enormous geographic spans instantly, it connects people at times when, in the past, they would have been isolated and it accelerates communication and familiarity with simple and rapid access to means of communication. This is not to argue that people should spend all of their time online, but rather that time spent using email, chat rooms, message boards, instant messaging, texting, talking on cell phones and embracing new mediums of communication and information is hardly isolationist or anti-social. Mack claims that technology users’ partners are displeased and that online activity cuts into time for watching TV and reading magazines and newspapers. Some partners and friends actually use the medium to communicate or to share information. Something tells me Mack doesn’t have a MySpace or Facebook account. Should we really believe that the passivity of TV watching and the quality of TV product are somehow superior to information obtained online? Magazines and newspapers don’t publish online? Government, educational and research institutions don’t place an enormous wealth of information online? Does Mack use the internet at all? Anyone who is even vaguely technologically competent has no excuse for not being better educated, more well-informed, more culturally connected and more in touch with their friends and family than ever before.

    OT: Speaking of online information, did you notice there is a Buiter interview video on Bloomberg today?

    JS

  2. TraderMark

    My opinion is I agree with the other commenter that for those actively social people, technology is helping them keep touch 24/7 – I see people who cannot live without the crackberry (not for corporate use) ro their cell phones, and if you took it out of their hands for more than 30 minutes they’d literally go crazy … they text with 1 hand while talking to you. On the other hand, for the introverted types, now instead of staying at home and reluctantly interacting with society when one needs to, they can literally avoid society in whole other than through virtual (short of shopping for groceries, and going to work etc) – this gives them their social outlet.

    As for TV vs net – well many of us now get our news on net instead of TV, or papers – its more real time, and community based in things such as ‘comments’ and blogs and message boards – you can hear others opinions instantly. Sort of like how town halls or city squares worked in the old days way before suburbia… just online instead.

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