The average US citizen spends an astounding – or alarming, or both – nine hours a day in front of the TV, surfing the internet or jabbering away into his or her mobile, research from Indiana’s Ball State University has shown. However, none of these is apparently enough for-tech addicted Americans, who spend 30 per cent of this “media time” on more than one device simultaneously – presumably scouring eBay for a second-hand PS2 while watching a TV ad for how the latest mobile phone will irrevocably change your life for the better.
The question raised by this addiction to interfacing with technology is, according to the Ball State’s Professor Bob Papper: “What does this mean for society?”
A good question, which he then fails to answer, except to note to AFP: “The average person spends about nine hours per day using some type of media, which is arguably in excess of anything we would have envisaged 10 years ago,” adding the internet was fast challenging TV’s hegemony as the No.1 gateway to the world. “When we combine time spent on the web, using email, instant messaging and software such as word processing, the computer eclipses all other media with the single exception of television,” he noted.
Still, there are some moderately interesting factoids to be gleaned from the research, including the revelation that “18 to 24-year-olds spend less time online than any other age group except for the over 65s”. The apparent conclusion of this is that it “gives the lie to the idea that young adults are the most computer literate”, which would be true were it not a fact that Formula One world champ Fernando Alonso probably spends less time behind the wheel of a vehicle than the average long-distance lorry driver. You get the idea.
In the end, the Ball State probe does little more than confirm what the well-informed individual already realises – that the world is mad for tech and information and God alone knows where it’s all leading.
Well, one thing he does know: the survey’s finding that heaviest web and mobile phone traffic is on Fridays will inevitably attract the interest of advertisers keen to tap into this pre-weekend market. Ball State research team member, Mike Bloxham confirmed: “If media usage increases on Fridays based on the assumption that people are planning social activities, then this would be potentially the best day to advertise movies, drink and food specials and other products.” Marvellous.
The Ball State survey probed 400 people over several months recording 5,000 hours of media use on 15 different media and devices including TV, books, magazines, mobile phones, the internet, IM and email.