Heavy Net users log off from family, friends, says StatsCan


Couch potatoes step aside (or slide over). Welcome a new breed of domestic creatures now attracting social scrutiny.

Behold the mouse potato, heavy Internet users who spend hours on end in front of the computer tapping and scrolling away their time for no apparent financial reward. Statistics Canada tracked the nature and habits of this creature last year and their findings reveal that people who spend time on the Internet for more than an hour each day are logging off from their spouses or partners as well as their children and friends. What is striking is the amount of time they spent alone.General Social Survey, Statistics Canada.Text

In 2005 the General Social Survey (GSS) of Statistics Canada (StatsCan) polled nearly 20,000 individuals aged 15 and over from across the country. People were asked to keep a diary of their activities over a 24-hour period.

The study analyzed the impact of the Internet on how Canadians spend their time but did not include Web surfing for work or education-related use.

The survey indicated that mouse potatoes also devote significantly less time than non-Internet user to paid work and chores around the homes. Hardcore Net-surfers also spend less time sleeping, relaxing, resting and thinking.

Respondents who devote less than five minutes a day on the Internet were considered non-users. People who spent five minutes to an hour were considered moderate users. Heavy users were those who logged more than one hour of Internet use during the day.

The StatsCan findings, perhaps echo what most families with home computers already know – heavy Internet users are isolating themselves.

“What is striking is the amount of time they spent alone,” the survey said.

Moderate users spent 26 more minutes by themselves during the day than non-users, but heavy users were alone for nearly two hours longer than non-users.

Despite reduced face-to-face contact, Internet users find human interaction in other ways such as e-mail or chat groups and are more likely to fritter away time talking on the phone.

Interestingly, a survey by another group found that technology users in the workplace are finding more time for family and friends.

Teenagers hogging the bandwidth?

The study found heavy users were nearly eight years younger than the average non-users and six out of 10 heavy users were men. Less than half these heavy users worked at paid jobs and students and the unemployed made up the higher proportion of this group.

And they’re not being useful either. For example, heavy users spend an average of 33 minutes less time each day than non-users on domestic work such as child care and housekeeping.

Spouses and children bear the brunt of disassociation. The survey found heavy users spend about half an hour less with their significant other and their kids than non-users.

The survey also uncovered other interesting facts.

“Heavy users were more likely to describe their sense of belonging with the community as ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ weak,” according to StatsCan. Internet users still reported having the same number of close relationships with people outside the household as non-users.

Heavy Internet users devoted less time to active sports, civic and volunteer activities or even watching movies but “expressed greater enjoyment participating in clubs and social organizations.”

The survey did not say if these organizations were on-line.

Despite the fact that the Internet potentially competes with other sources of information and entertainment, Internet users remained interested in traditional media.

Internet users, just like non-users watch more than two hours of television during the day.

Web-bound family members spend more time reading books than non-users and moderate users are also likely to spend more time reading newspapers than those who don’t surf the Net.

Could the Web-surfing be therapeutic?

StatsCan said heavy Internet users reported being less stressed.

“Heavy users stood out because they were less likely to consider themselves stressed, rushed or workaholics,” the survey said.

But StatsCan said the differences in stress levels may had more to do with the personal characteristics of the Internet user than the Internet use itself. Once people with similar demographic backgrounds, work status and income were compared, “the differences between heavy Internet users and non-users disappeared.”

Well here’s a tip: Log off.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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