Patrick Sawer – “Internet and mobile phones become all-pervasive in modern society”

Internet and mobile phones become all-pervasive in modern society
Britons are spending more time than ever online following a revolution in the use of technology.

Patrick Sawer | July 27, 2008

We use it to shop, book holidays, file tax returns and even check on the fidelity of our spouses. The internet has come to dominate our lives as never before.

A comprehensive study of the importance of the internet in people’s lives has found that thousands spend as many as 30 hours a week online.

It found that the extent and use of broadband and mobile phone technology had increased dramatically in the past 10 years, leading to a “revolution in the way we shop, do business and are entertained”. Forty-four per cent of us now have broadband at home.

The Ipsos MORI survey of more than 2,000 people, carried out across Britain for the BT 21st Century Life Index report, found:

Just over half the population spend more than six hours a week online, compared with only 14 per cent a decade ago;

The number of websites visited has risen dramatically, with 19 per cent of internet users visiting more than 20 different sites a week;

Nearly half have booked flights and holidays online, 46 per cent have bought books, 21 per cent have downloaded music and 19 per cent have shopped for groceries;

23 per cent have “Googled” themselves to see what’s written about them online; a quarter have used a social networking site.

The survey also exposes the ubiquitous nature of mobile phones, which are now used by 86 per cent of British people, compared with only 23 per cent in 1998.

he use of PCs and laptops has risen from 35 per cent of the population to 47 per cent, though the use of BlackBerrys and email phones is still limited to only 4 per cent.

And while nearly 70 per cent of us say we prefer face-to-face communication to using the phone or email, nearly 80 per cent say we could not live without a telephone; our mobile or landline phones. Nineteen per cent say they could not live without the internet.

John Petter, managing director of BT Communications, said: “Over the last decade we’ve seen the birth of the online society, the broadband revolution and the evolution of mobile communications. The internet has changed the way we shop, do business and the way we are entertained. People have more information, greater choice and more power at their fingertips today than at any time in our history.”

The report found that users had begun to look to the internet for help on two of the most pressing problems of the day – the environment and the credit crunch. A fifth would like advice on reducing the amount of energy their technological devices use, while, 23 per cent are using the internet to compare prices before making a purchase.

The authors of the report state: “In response to recent talk about recession, internet users have become smarter shoppers, with almost a quarter either starting to use online price comparison tools before making a purchase or using them more often.”

Internet and SIM card ethics also come under scrutiny. While a majority said that reading someone else’s emails or text messages was unacceptable, only 30 per cent thought it would be wrong to use a social networking site to test a spouse’s faithfulness; and 5 per cent admit to actually doing so.

But academics have warned against over-reliance on the internet in our daily lives. A study by Duke University and the University of Arizona found that people who used the internet intensively as a source of advice and to communicate with “virtual” friends can suffer a decline in their ability to confide in their real friends and families.

Lynn Smith-Lovin, professor of sociology at Duke, said this could in turn lead to feelings of isolation and loss of confidence. “This change indicates something that is not good for our society,” she said. “Ties with a close network of people create a safety net.”

The majority of people believe that technology has improved the quality of their lives, although professionals are more likely than unskilled and manual workers to regard it in a positive light. At the same time, most of us think that businesses, the media and politicians have benefited more from the spread of new technology than ordinary people.

The report found that home working – regarded by employment gurus as the solution to overcrowded commuter trains, expensive office overheads and the work-life balance – is seen by many men as a good excuse for a skive. The survey shows that men are twice as likely as women to use “working from home” as a way of taking it easy, with one in five admitting that they have at one point told their bosses they were working from home when in fact they were simply taking the day off.

However, the report also found that nearly 60 per cent said they worked more productively at home.

For all our everyday reliance on the internet, mobile phones and the virtual world, many of us hanker after the simple life, away from the click and tap of technology.

Nearly 60 per cent want to spend more time with their families and 34 per cent of people want to spend less time working.

Published in: on July 27, 2008 at 8:51 PM  Leave a Comment  

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