Study depicts life without the Internet

Yahoo! Inc. and OMD, a media agency, recently unveiled the findings of an Internet deprivation study examining consumers’ media habits and their emotional connection to the Internet.

The qualitative portion of the study, fielded by Conifer Research, included an ethnographic study in which participants chronicled their lives without the Internet for two weeks.

All participants in the qualitative study found living without the ’Net more difficult than they expected, and in some cases impossible, because the tools and services the Internet offers were firmly ingrained in their daily lives. Participants found that many daily activities were impacted and impaired, including booking travel, checking sports scores, communicating with friends and family, and paying bills.

Regardless of age, household income or ethnic background, all participants in the ethnographic research study experienced withdrawal and feelings of loss, frustration and disconnectedness when cut off from the online world. Users described their time offline as “feeling left out of the loop,” having to “resist temptation” and missing their “private escape time” during the day.

Nearly half of respondents (48 per cent) in a complementary quantitative study, fielded by Ipsos-Insight, indicated they could not go without the Internet for more than two weeks; the median time respondents could go without being online is five days.

According to Yahoo, this study illustrated the concept of the “digital divide,” as three quarters of respondents agreed that the Web gave them an advantage over those who did not have or use the Internet, such as lower prices, quicker service and more convenience.

The participants’ reactions were captured at different stages throughout the study and supplemented with video and written diaries that captured the behavioural, emotional and cognitive changes that occurred during the deprivation period.

The following three key themes emerged from the study:

Security blanket

Internet users feel confident, secure and empowered. The Web has become, to some, the ultimate symbol of modernity to the point that participants were hobbled without convenient access to routine information like maps and telephone numbers.

Social network

The survey findings demonstrate that a larger circle of social networks have developed as a result of Web access.

According to the research, communications figured most prominently in the withdrawal process, demonstrating a new social network paradigm. Participants in the study found they missed the ability to exercise control over the pace and content of communication with different layers of friends and families. As a result, during the deprivation period, participants’ outer circle of relationships suffered.

Internet in the workplace

Participants used the Internet to condense everyday activities and shorten the time and effort required to do things from looking up a phone number to finding directions and keeping track of bank balances.

Without access, they felt exposed in their everyday working environments. Participants expressed that they looked unproductive and lazy to their colleagues when engaged in these activities using traditional means.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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