My initial reaction to the recent Huffington Post article revealing lower internet usage in the States was ‘Surely not.’ We use the internet for absolutely everything. At work, at home, on holiday – there’s no getting away from it, particularly in the U.S. which just falls short of global ‘most wired countries’ lists. Yet somehow 2012 has proved to be the first year since 1997 that U.S. consumers have found something to do that doesn’t involve WiFi or Bluetooth. According to the Huffington Post ‘the average consumer spends 19.6 hours using the internet every week, compared to 21.9 in 2011.’ What are they doing in those two hours that they were not doing before?
Sadly, it’s not quite as simple as it sounds. The term ‘internet usage’ seems to have become a little foggy so consumers don’t automatically consider all internet usage as using the internet – if that makes sense. Tasks such as on-line shopping and social networking (which would have risen steadily year on year) are not viewed in the same way as Googling something, reading an email or on-line banking. The truth is, anyone with a smartphone is in effect ‘always on-line’ but we are beginning to redefine ‘using the internet’ and this no longer includes things like streaming a TV show or using Spotify. The same survey, conducted by Forrester’s, also shows TV usage to be declining, which actually just means that people are now more likely to use their iPads rather than ‘the box.’
So no, people are not reading more, playing more ball games or exercising in the two hours that they ‘would have been on the net.’ We’re just changing the way we consume entertainment and complete daily tasks, so we’re probably on the internet all day in some respect. So much for fresh air and physical activity.