When I first got involved in the “commercial Internet” (i.e., following the creation of the Web) back in 1993 we sold people on the idea that they could interact with people from around the world, access huge stores of information, and even – someday – sell goods or services directly. It was pretty heady and high-minded stuff compared to the world we have today that’s delivered on that promise (and then some) when you look at distance learning, e-commerce, and enhanced person-to-person interactions (i.e., social networking and media). However, there’s a lot of noise out there in the form of I Can Has Cheezeburger (LOLcats), FarmVille, Antoine Dodson (bed intruder), and just about 99% of the Internet memes out there.
To be fair the Internet has exploded in a way that no one could have ever imagined back in the early 1990s (or in the late 1980s when I first got online). However I wasn’t all that surprised when I read the new report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project that found most Americans (53%) aged 18-29 use the Internet as a way to pass the time or as a diversion. In fact, 58% of all adults – or 74% of online adults – use the Internet in this fashion, for fun or general entertainment.
Lee Rainey, the author of the study, was quoted by Mashable as saying:
“These findings are one of our main signs about how deeply Internet use has woven itself into the rhythms of people’s lives. When they have some down time, more and more of them are finding the Internet a fun, diverting place to spend their leisure moments. It’s not necessarily surprising to see that this is a favorite pastime of young adults. It is a bit surprising to see that the incidence of this use has grown in every age demographic. The Internet is not just the playground of the young.”