A truly defining image of the 21st century is one of people walking around with their heads buried in some kind of device, be it a smartphone, tablet, Kindle or other contraption … and with the recent meteoric rise of Pokemon Go, this sight has become even more common around the world.
As a millennial American living in London, I consider myself to be part of a new cohort of “digital natives” that has learned to thrive in this hyper-connected world. We are proud of our global connections and our ability to communicate with friends at all hours of the day and night, and we would surely rise up and revolt if anyone tried to take our Netflix passwords away from us. If, on the off chance, we decide to complain about our overstimulation and connectivity, we do so in the only way we know how… by tweeting about it.
But it seems that many of us are now keen to strike a better balance between the world of tech and real life away from those little glass screens. New research from UK broadcasting watchdog Ofcom has found that 15 million people (34%) are now looking to embark on a digital detox of sorts, spending a period of time away from the internet.
Of those who have started doing so, 25% spent up to a day without going online, 20% took up to a week off and 5% were able to give up the digital world for up to an entire month.
When questioned about their decision, 33% said that they felt more productive as a result, while 27% admitted they found it liberating and 25% said they actually enjoyed life more. However, it should perhaps come as no surprise that 16% said they were afraid of missing out, 15% felt lost without the internet and 14% felt cut off.
Thanks to the prevalence of superfast broadband (the report showed that 9.2 million fixed broadband connections were this speedy come the end of 2015) and the fact that 71% of adults in the UK now own a smartphone, people are more connected than they’ve ever been in the past. This means that they can spend their time online following a wide range of pursuits, whether it’s watching the latest series on Netflix, using instant messaging apps to keep in touch with friends or family, or promoting their businesses online using sites like Instagram and Facebook.
Although there are positives to spending lots of time online, it seems that there are a few downsides as well. For example, 48% of people admitted that they’ve neglected housework because of browsing online for too long, while 47% said they had missed out on sleep and 31% said they’d missed out on being with friends and family as a result.
“The internet has revolutionised our lives for the better. But our love affair with the web isn’t always plain surfing, and many people admit to feeling hooked. So millions of us are taking a fresh look at the role of technology in our lives, and going on a digital detox to get a better tech-life balance,” director of market intelligence at Ofcom Jane Rumble said.
Whether you think your use of the internet is absolutely fine or if you think a digital detox sounds like a good idea, it certainly seems like it’s about to become a lot easier for millions of people to get online around the UK. Back in May, Ofcom confirmed that it would be speeding up WiFi connections to improve the quality of service – so perhaps we’ll all become even more addicted to the World Wide Web than we already are. Only time will tell.
For more strategy research tips and advice, get in touch with the team at ORC International.