Heavy Internet Users are Different

According to some new research, heavy Internet users are really not like the rest of us:

Heavy users (those who spent more than an hour on the Internet during the day) devoted less time to socializing with their spouse or partner, as well as their children and friends. And they tended to stay at home, showing less interest in outdoor activities than non-users.

They also devoted significantly less time than non-users to paid work and chores around the home, as well as less time sleeping, relaxing, resting or thinking.

What is striking is the amount of time they spent alone. Moderate Internet users (those using the Internet for five minutes to one hour during the diary day) spent about 26 more minutes by themselves than non-users during the diary day. But heavy Internet users were alone nearly two hours (119 minutes) longer than non-users, even when comparing people from similar-sized households.

They may be an attractive market for some online services, but I dont think I like these people.

[Update] A few people pointing out in comments to this post that there is a possible methodological issue here. After all, many of us, myself included, are “on” the Internet 12 hours a day, if you count being in an office with a Net connection plus being connected via an EVDO-enabled Treo 700, or equivalent. I think the difference is the kind of use, whether the use is passive or active, and so on.

Of course, some of this is simple math. The more time you spend on Activity A, the less time you have available for Activities B, C, and D. But there is a deeper issue, in that you can choose to take time evenly from all activities to offset your Net activities, or you can take in disproportionately from Activity B, or C, or D.

That, I think is the point, in large part, of this study. People who are “heavy” (an unfortunate choice of words) Internet users borrow that time disproportionately from social activities, outdoor recreation, and so on.


  1. Oh Give me a Break Paul, You don’t spend an hour a day on the ‘internet’? More like 12 hours, eh?

  2. “but I dont think I like these people.
    waaaaaaaaaaa..you are such a bigot !! pls tell me you only spend 5 minutes a day on the net :)-

  3. Ok , I may have jumped the gun… Pls tell me that i am wrong in my thinking and that you dont like those online marketing folks !!

  4. Good point, and maybe this is a methodological issue. In a sense, I spend about 12 hours a day on the Internet. After all, I’m connected while in the office, and my Treo (which I just upgraded to the new Treo 700) has EVDO, which means I have a speedy Net connection even when I’m not in the office.
    So, does that make the Stats Can conclusions above apply to me? Self-servingly, I don’t think so. I spend a ton of time with Real People, both family and co-workers, and most of my Internet connection time is passive, not active. In other words, I’ll post a comment, or send an email, or look something up, and then I move on to do other things, many times not involving the Net.
    I’m guessing that the biggest difference between me and so-called “heavy” Internet users is that I don’t play games, have never used Second Life or equivalent, and don’t really participate in chat or forums. Most of my Net usage is information-related, whether sharing or seeking, and that, I cheerfully think, makes me different.
    I could be wrong, of course šŸ˜‰

  5. More than an hour a day is “heavy”? What should I call my 8-10 hours a day? “Mainlining”? “Hopeless”? Maybe just “sad”.

  6. Two Words: Confirmation Bias

  7. Paul, you know the first step to recovery is breaking through the denial…
    You and most of your readers aren’t even in the same league as this study. How about a poll:
    How many hours a day do you spend connected to the internet?
    Make sure your form has some granularity above 10hours!

  8. several survey details lead to questions:
    1. it excludes cell phone users – who are, from my experience, a heavy Internet user group, with a likely difference is social activities than the non-cell phone heavy internet user group
    2. “Heavy users were also more likely than non-users to want to spend more time on their studies, but this was linked with the fact that a greater proportion of these users were students.”
    a. – and they tend to IM, email and cell phone – spending time on the Internet does not mean it isn’t social time.
    b. – and they tend to be in a different social environment which has unexplored impacts on this survey.
    3. this also seems to assume, as someone commented on, that Internet use is home use, not work related.
    4. given above, we won’t know if the result was not “pre selected” by the survey develops’ expectations.
    “If the response codes to the previous questions indicated that the current question was ‘off path’ because the respondent was clearly identified as belonging to a sub-population for which the current question was inappropriate or not of interest, the current question was coded as ‘Not Asked’, i.e. 7 (97 or 997, etc.).
    Due to the nature of the survey, imputation was not appropriate for most items so missing data were coded as ‘Not stated’. ”
    It would be nice to have the data that was excluded to do further analysis of “what is really going on.”
    5. “while every effort was made to avoid non-response, the non-response rate for GSS-19 was 41%. Little or nothing is known about the non-responding cases, and so the results may be biased to the extent that the non-responding cases differ from those that provided responses.”
    In my opinion, it would have been better to sift through different sub-groups – to attempt to see how the use of the Internet varies as well as how Internet use impacts other aspects of a person’s life. This seems to be a very over-simplified survey finding.

  9. ok, you make more sense now A vs B vs B !!
    the day only has 24 hrs.. Iget your point.. an thanks for the update :)_

  10. “I dont think I like these people.”
    Does this mean you hate yourself?

  11. Yes, but for a proper therapy session you’ll need to charge more. I want to pay to disclose that sort of thing.
    obAnecdote: Speaking of self-hatred, your comments me of a bit of color that makes it into pretty much every story about David Letterman. Here is the NY Times’ Bill Carter retailing it from a 1994 story:

    During a commercial break on the set in the mid-1980’s, the band was playing so loudly that it was impossible for Teri Garr, one of Dave’s favorite guests, to make herself heard. When she all but shouted at him “How are you doing?” Letterman grabbed a pad on his desk, scribbled a note and passed it to her. “I hate myself,” it read. Garr was a bit stunned. But when she tried to reassure Dave that he was, in fact, truly a wonderful guy, Letterman grabbed the note, underlined “I hate myself” twice and passed it back.


  12. The study does not seem to consider the existence of people like me. I am one of many internet heavy users who are actually more in touch with friends and family for the very reason that we are heavy users. My friends and family are scattered over two continents when we’re all at home, four when we’re traveling for business. If it weren’t for the internet we’d have little to no contact. But thanks to heavy use we’ve sustained close friendships and relationships, sharing photos and stories music and movies of each other and our lives.

  13. I think you just insulted at least half your readership :).