Talking tech since 2003

The Pew Research Center has released quite the findings of an interesting survey today, confirming what most of us already know – we are absolutely addicted to the internet. In the survey of slightly over 1,000 adults living in the United States, Pew paints one of the most accurate pictures yet of how Americans spend their time in front of a computer in 2014.

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According to the results, 81% of all participants claim that they now use a computer, a staggering number that isn’t all too surprising. Adoption of computer use has done nothing but increase in recent years, growing steadily almost annually since Pew began the surveys in the year 1990. Back then, only 42% of participants reported using the computer, meaning that in just 24 years that number has just about doubled. And if you think that’s impressive, consider this – cell phone adoption is now at 90%, reaching almost complete saturation. Now, that’s not to say that 90% of all Americans are walking around with iPhones or the latest Lumia in their pocket, but it does mean that an absolutely insane amount of people carry some form of mobile phone with them.

Interestingly, 87% of those surveyed responded affirming that they use the internet, more than those who claim to use a computer. Some of that discrepancy could be explained by the growth of smartphones in America. 58% of all mobile phone subscribers in the survey responded that they own smartphones – devices capable of allowing owners to access the web without the need for a computer. That’s still a relatively low number considering how many people reported that they go online and use the computer, and really shows how much room for growth their really is left in the crowded smartphone marketplace. If you think Apple is nearing the point where they’ve sold as many iPhones as they can, as some have begun to argue, it seems that we’ve actually got quite a long way to go before that becomes even remotely true.

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But perhaps most surprising about the survey is how respondents view social media. While 53% of them claimed that they couldn’t live without the internet and 49% without their smartphone, just 11% said that they couldn’t live without social media. That means that the vast majority of people at least outwardly are claiming that they do not see social media use as a necessity in today’s society, an interesting claim considering how integral these services have seemingly become to our lives. In other words, a huge amount more people are willing to give up social media than are willing to give up land line phones – and I didn’t even think anybody actually used those things anymore.

To me, this is the start of a potentially really interesting conversation – how much do we really rely on social media? If Twitter were to disappear tomorrow, what impact would that have on your life? What about Facebook? Would we really shrug it off as no big loss, or would social circles, relationships, social capital just collapse over night? Or are we really free from social media, perfectly able and willing to walk away tomorrow if need be? Let me know what you think in the comments.


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