To faithful readers who feel that visiting Notes From the Field three times a week is a complete waste of their time (but do it anyway), take heart: You are not alone. In fact, research shows you are among the tens of millions who are online because they have nothing better to do.
Last Friday the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project revealed that 58 percent of U.S. adults go online "just for fun" [PDF]. The biggest Web time wasters are, of course, callow youth age 18 to 29. More than 80 percent of Generation YouTube are surfing the Web when they should be out looking for work or cleaning their rooms, per the survey. That's nearly double the number who went online for fun in 2000.
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But even among the coveted COF (Cranky Old Fart) demographic that comprises much of the NFTF (Notes From the Field -- do I have to spell everything out for you?) readership, pointless Internet surfing is on the rise. In 2000, only 18 percent of those age 50 to 64 went online because they were bored; today it's an even 50 percent.
The reasons? Pew credits:
...the rise of broadband connections, the increasing use of video that is enabled by those high-speed connections, and the explosion of social networking. If they have broadband, if they are online video consumers, if they use social media of any kind -- especially social networking sites -- they are much more likely than others to go online to pass the time.
It's not really new habits so much as it is new ways to do old habits: More people are going online to do stuff they used to do offline -- watch TV or movies, read books, catch the news, and so on. And with the rise of massively powerful mobile devices, they can do it from anywhere. It's not terribly surprising that the richest demographic (those making $75,000 or more annually) have the highest overall percentage of leisure Internet use (74 percent). More money = more devices = more time spent online.