Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Nobody “Goes Online” Anymore

A large survey of Internet users found that they say they spend fewer hours per week online than they did a year ago.

Wait, really?

Well, it’s a matter of perception. This was a Forrester survey, and people were asked how much time they spend using the Internet. On average, they said 19.6 hours per week, versus 21.9 hours per week when asked the same question in 2011.

But Forrester thinks that the drop is more about perception than reality, because many people are virtually always online these days.

“Despite the fact that they always have connected devices and are always online, they don’t really realize they’re online,” said Forrester analyst Gina Sverdlov. “They’re using Google Maps or checking in on Facebook, but that’s not considered online because it has become such a part of everyday life.”

When Forrester separately does tracking studies to measure how much time people spend online, it’s way more than they realize, she said. But this particular study was a survey of 58,000 U.S. online adults, who were asked to talk about their own habits.

It makes sense. Why talk or think about “going online” when you’re already there?

Sverdlov said she sees this difference between how people talk about the Internet and what they actually do in other areas, too.

So, for instance, the Forrester survey found that lots of people say they visit social networking sites regularly: 70 percent this year versus 58 percent in 2010.

Meanwhile, other activities like using photo-sharing sites and contributing to online forums and discussion groups saw drops in reported usage.

People still post photos and talk to each other online all the time, Sverdlov said, but they may think of them differently because they may be doing them on services like Facebook and Twitter. “We’re seeing somewhat of a cannibalization of other Internet activities because it’s possible to do all that on social networking sites,” she said.

What we actually do is generally more important than the words we use to describe it — but the fact that these labels are trailing behind is another indicator of the significance of these shifts.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work