Time spent on the internet and uses of
February 1, 2006 3:30 AM   Subscribe

How much time do you spend online? The internet is taking over our lives. Worldwide it is changing the way we live. Everything from complete wastes of time to complex profit schemes to finding love, an entire lifetime can be spent online. But is it really the same?
posted by Addiction (42 comments total)
I notice in the breakdown of online activities "downloading porn" is conspicuously absent. Unless of course that is what they mean by "personal photos".
posted by rhymer at 3:40 AM on February 1, 2006

Online gaming actually overtook pornography oddly as the number one grossing industry on the internet I believe.
posted by Addiction at 3:51 AM on February 1, 2006

Yet porn's ability to gross out still far exceeds that of gaming.
posted by vbfg at 4:05 AM on February 1, 2006

Those stats are ridiculously out-of-date. Current net usage/e-comm figures from Jupiter Research and eMarketer (eg), are much more interesting - although alas you'll need subs to see 'em...
posted by runkelfinker at 4:15 AM on February 1, 2006

I surf for internet on the porn.

In the following chart, we show some data from 2004 MARS study conducted during the first quarter of 2004.

Like runkelfinker says, the data is too far out of date to be accurate. The field is moving too fast for information from two years ago be pertinent.

Just looking at the amount/speed on connections in the UK, there's been a massive increase in the physical amount of internet connections being created just in the last year or so. Broadband is becoming a household thing now.

It's only a matter of time (with the widespread use of wifi) before internet access becomes just like television/radio broadcasting. We might spend a lot of time on the net now, but once it becomes even more integrated into everyday life stats like this will lose most of their meaning...
posted by slimepuppy at 4:30 AM on February 1, 2006

Then, we'll all bask and cavort, work, live, love, and spend the days of our lives in the gentle electronic waters of the e-Ocean.
posted by troutfishing at 4:40 AM on February 1, 2006

I am not addicted. I can quit the internet any time I want. In fact, I have done it many times.
posted by caddis at 5:00 AM on February 1, 2006

Fuck you - I live here!
posted by Smart Dalek at 5:05 AM on February 1, 2006

I like that this was posted by Addiction.
posted by piratebowling at 5:33 AM on February 1, 2006

Did any of you addicts observe INTERNATIONAL INTERNET-FREE DAY last Sunday?
posted by If I Had An Anus at 5:36 AM on February 1, 2006

That would be a nice, low-traffic day for downloading stuff.
posted by grobstein at 5:49 AM on February 1, 2006

If I had an Anus: Never heard of it. Was it talked about on the internet/MetaFilter?

I met my partner on the Internet, 9 years ago. We're going strong still.

The internet offers information, entertainment of various sorts, news, editorials, weather, education, porn, sex, relationships, jobs. Everything except exercise. What is the problem, exactly?
posted by Goofyy at 5:51 AM on February 1, 2006

Those red Vs blue skits are fun.
posted by raedyn at 6:21 AM on February 1, 2006

(and the discussing politics part is too true)
posted by raedyn at 6:22 AM on February 1, 2006

The internet offers information, entertainment of various sorts, news, editorials, weather, education, porn, sex, relationships, jobs. Everything except exercise. What is the problem, exactly?

What Goofyy said. And I'm sure some enterprising soul will soon find away to get that exercise thing sorted out.
posted by Zinger at 6:25 AM on February 1, 2006

Did any of you addicts observe INTERNATIONAL INTERNET-FREE DAY last Sunday?

Now why in Gods name would I want an internet free day? To go to church or something? A free internet day, now that would be interesting.
posted by twistedonion at 6:27 AM on February 1, 2006

Did any of you addicts observe INTERNATIONAL INTERNET-FREE DAY last Sunday?

Well I was on the internet when I heard about it so I guess the answer would be a resounding, no.
posted by KevinSkomsvold at 6:42 AM on February 1, 2006

I've been on a medical leave of absence for almost six weeks now, trapped on the horizontal plane due to a bad case of sciatica. I have spent a good 8-16 hrs a day on the internet as a result. All I can say is it sure as hell beats television, and doesn't make me fell like a shut-in the way reading 30 books would have, although I have been reading regularly.
posted by furtive at 7:00 AM on February 1, 2006

Anecdotal I know, however since first discovering the net in '94, my time online started decreasing around 2002 and now I spend an average of just over an hour a day.
posted by mischief at 7:10 AM on February 1, 2006


Never heard of it.
posted by mischief at 7:11 AM on February 1, 2006

It was the second annual one. I thought about posting it here on Sunday, but we see so MANY OF THESE TYPES OF DAYS, ARGGGH, DON'T WE MATEY.
posted by caddis at 7:17 AM on February 1, 2006

I've still got my original bookmark for Metafilter from the first day I found it. I had put it in a folder called "time wasters."
posted by StickyCarpet at 7:18 AM on February 1, 2006

If all goes well, I will never be outside a wireless network again.
posted by Hildegarde at 7:27 AM on February 1, 2006

I'm getting to the point where I openly admit my unabashed love of the internet. Perhaps because I began using it in 1992 -- when it really was for maladjusted geeks like myself -- I have always felt a small sense of shame about the time I spend online.

But in the last few years, it seems that the world has caught up. At the same time, I've drastically expanded the number of activities I'm willing to do online. The 'net has become my first go-to resource for all basic information - sure, I still go to the library and occasionally use a phone book, but not before scoping things out online to get the lay of the land. I have also done much more socializing online, and I'd characterize it as actually meaningful socializing - connecting with people about ideas, corresponding, and then often meeting them in RL. MeFi has been a large part of this. I keep track of communities I'm interested in - swing dancing, old-time music. I subscribe to mailing lists on academic subjects, take part in great online conversations with them, and then meet those people at conferences and have beers. I bring home unfamiliar vegetables from the store and then google for recipes. On my triathlete website, I log my workouts, get advice, and check in with 'training buddies' from all over my region, who I then meet at events and hang out with. My cat acts funny and I look up feline behavior to decide whether she needs to go to the vet. I download tablature/chords/lyrics and learn new music, which then gets played at live sessions. And I'm now dating a wonderful guy who I would only have met online.

Every one of these activities has enriched my life. Every one of them would have been possible, pre-internet, but with a much greater investment of time and effort for each result. The key for me in determining what's 'too much' is to ask myself these questions: do my online activities connect to something beyond my computer screen? Do they increase my number of real-world contacts, or multiply the number of ideas I'm exposed to (and can now use to think with)? Are they interfering with my most important projects and closest relationships? The idea is to use the internets to enhance life, not avoid life.

So, I spend probably 2-3 hours a day online - I run my browser in the background at work and check my main few sites for 20 minutes or so several times a day, then often spend an hour in the evening on mail and chatting. On weekends, maybe a couple hours, with morning coffee, on music or researching something. My only sadness is that I do a lot more reading online, and a lot less in books and magazines. Yet books and magazines are really ideal reading technology -- reading on-screen isn't highly pleasurable and not as portable.
posted by Miko at 7:29 AM on February 1, 2006

The internet, eh?

Miko said anything I could possibly say.

...didn't see blogging on the list tho.
posted by Smedleyman at 8:31 AM on February 1, 2006

My business is completely dependent on the internet. Without it, I'd be reduced to living at the mercy of postal/courier services and the mercurial whims of customs inspectors. I also work at home, and the internet, while not my only social contact, is an important bridge between me and the outside world. So I can't really see any downside. I guess it's possible that some people might be internet junkies, but that's a personal problem, not a social one.
posted by slatternus at 8:37 AM on February 1, 2006

I am a complete addict. With few exceptions (driving back and forth to work, sleep), I'm on the internet 16-24 hours in any 24 hour period.

And I hate it.

I can no longer stand email, so even things I -should- reply to get left for weeks or even months. Yet I get 40-100 emails a day after the spam is filtered out.

I wish I could quit you, internet.

And I will. My wife and I have bought rural property and I plan to change my life by moving there to raise our upcoming child. Of course, it's all depending on money...paying off our (no so serious) debts and having enough cash to raise Kickstart v2 properly. I wish there was a quick way because I constantly feel myself weakened as a person by the time I spend on the 'net.

And that is my wholly truthful admission for you all. Take it as you will.
posted by Kickstart70 at 8:40 AM on February 1, 2006

Congrats, Kickstart.
posted by If I Had An Anus at 9:02 AM on February 1, 2006

as long as there are people in this world that thinks the fact that they read lots of books makes them a genius, there will be things like, "INTERNATIONAL INTERNET-FREE DAY."
posted by mcsweetie at 9:03 AM on February 1, 2006

Ah, kickstart, dare to dream, eh? Myself, I try to get some sleep from time to time. I consider myself reasonably productive and hard-working, but I'm definitely on-line over 8-10 hours a day.

I find the biggest problem with net abuse is that the constant attention-shifting (email->mefi->boingboing->slashdot->news->repeat) takes a real physical and mental toll, and when you try to do other things (like goofing around with your kids), you find yourself going back (just to check!) for more info. ... and going back doesn't actually have to physically happen- in your head you're not present with the task at hand, even if the computer is off. When I can go an entire day without going near the computer, I'm a very happy guy. When a vacation keeps me away for a week I've never felt better.

More accurately:
email->browse->write some code->start compiling->email->browse->if compilation failed goto 1 else run program->goto 1. GOTO still has some uses!
posted by simra at 9:33 AM on February 1, 2006

the constant attention-shifting (email->mefi->boingboing->slashdot->news->repeat

Yeah, this is a serious danger. Basically, what's happening mentally is that you get caught in a very narrow feedback loop. It's like being a Pavlovian dog. Recently I've tried making some rules about how many times I can 'cycle' that way.

When I was teaching, this type of behavior was of concern with regard to video games. Kids kind of get 'addicted' to the fast feedback, and lose all sense of real-world timing and the much slower sensory activity away from electronic space.
posted by Miko at 9:38 AM on February 1, 2006

Ok, yeah, I'd also agree that's a serious downside to being online a lot: getting caught in an ever tightening spiral of well-worn surf habits. It's incredibly easy to get caught in a monoculture where the trivial gets fused with the relevant. For example, when I find myself thinking that "A WALKING STICK MADE ENTIRELY OF HUMAN EARWAX!" or some pop-hipster rubbish I see on Boing Boing is equally as fascinating as actual news involving humans, then I know it's time to delete my bookmarks and disrupt that cycle for a while.
posted by slatternus at 9:47 AM on February 1, 2006

And comments are a killer too. Metafilter is one of a handful of sites where reading comments is worth the time. I used to spend a lot of time reading comments on sites where I KNEW in advance that I'd just end up getting pissed off. It can become a perverse addiction. That's definitely one bad internet habit I'm happy to have gotten over.
posted by slatternus at 9:54 AM on February 1, 2006

I'm online pretty much all the time, barring travelling from place to place or going out for a walk. Most of my friends are also online all the time, so even when we get together in real life we're still online in some way.

When I can't be online (spending time with my nephew or visiting somewhere without a wireless network), I don't miss it at all. I wonder how my friends are doing, but I don't feel any urge to check webpages or anything. Maybe this is because I'm not a surfer, I dunno.

Last year I was offline for about 5 months. I could get online for a total of 1 hour a day. Since I was job-hunting at the time, I would use that one hour to check my email, post essays to my blog, etc. It was a bit cramped, but I didn't actually miss being online all the time.

At this point I am so used to be online that I can do pretty much anything while connected, including working on my manuscript. In fact, I'd rather write while online, so I can bounce ideas off my editors, post finished chapters so they can read over them, get their impressions as they read it, research bits and pieces online so that the details are right, that sort of thing. I *can* write offline, and I certainly have, but I think I'm more productive when I'm online.

I don't have a problem ignoring email (or IM) if I'm busy at that precise moment. It's there at *my* beck and call, not the other way around. I get the impression that lots of people feel that online tools put pressure on them; I can understand that that's how people feel, but I definitely don't.

At the moment I'm home sick from work, and I'd rather let the internet (plus the radio) entertain me than tv.
posted by Hildegarde at 10:01 AM on February 1, 2006

Time spent on internet has gotta be better than time spent just watching TV.
posted by Foosnark at 10:07 AM on February 1, 2006

I dunno. Aside from blowing about an hour on MeFi & a couple other sites (mainly news) - I'm pretty sick of the internet. It's certainly not what it was 10 years ago, that's for sure.
Corporations, lawyers, and spammers have ruined a lot of it. :(
posted by drstein at 10:18 AM on February 1, 2006

Time spent on internet has gotta be better than time spent just watching TV.

I'd agree. In fact, the act of watching TV has come to seem singularly flat, irrelevant, and impersonal for me. The choice of content is so limited, there's no actual interaction with anyone, it's mostly unsurprising, and you don't contribute a thing to the experience. TV is dead.
posted by Miko at 10:51 AM on February 1, 2006

You used to be cool, Internet. What happened, man?
posted by Astro Zombie at 10:51 AM on February 1, 2006

I can't stand TV anymore. My favorite shows, LOST and Battlestar derive a lot of their dramatic power from the slow buildup of tension that tends to be completely destroyed by Huggies commercials. I've had nothing but bad experiences with Torrents (lousy image and sound quality) so the only TV I'll watch now is DVD. TV isn't necessarily dead, but Network broadcasting certainly is.
posted by slatternus at 11:08 AM on February 1, 2006

Most of my 'in the house' entertainment involves the internet. It is an easy escape mechanism when you want to shut out the real world, but I feel I am becoming more introverted through excessive time online.

However, it's not damaging my liver and as a source of entertainment it's very economical.

When 'browsing fatigue' sets in and you don't know what to look at, but still continue to do so, it becomes no more stimulating that televison IMHO.
posted by 999 at 4:58 PM on February 1, 2006

boy, online gaming really did a number on me a few years back. i was strung out on circlemud in high school, unreal tournament in college. now i just use the internet to learn shit.. i hope its not all a waste of time
posted by phaedon at 2:54 AM on February 2, 2006

Time spent on internet has gotta be better than time spent just watching TV.

It seems that way, doesn't it? With the internet, you can exercise complete control over what you consume. The problem is figuring out what to do with all this control. It's like the Canadian said to the American in Infinite Jest: "Your freedom is a freedom from." I do agree with you, the internet is better than TV. But I also think that reading and listening to music are the best. Unless you can get your hands on a good video game.

I find that the internet is most useful as a medium of social interaction & networking, provided that you know what is appropriate on the internet.
posted by Laugh_track at 7:50 AM on February 2, 2006

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