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July 11, 2017

Research Firm GfK Confirms and Quantifies World’s Addiction to Technology

One-Third of Internet Users Find It Difficult to Take a Break from Tech

One of the world’s largest market research firms, GfK (Gesellschaft für Konsumforschung; translation: Society for Consumer Research) recently surveyed internet users from around the world about their use of connected devices. GfK’s key finding was that despite the best of intentions, one out of every three internet users reports having a hard time walking away from electronic devices, despite knowing better.

In response to the question, “Do you find it difficult to take a break from technology,” 34% of respondents agreed – twice as many as the percentage who disagreed (16%). Not surprisingly, GfK researchers observed considerable variation in survey responses depending on the age of the respondent. Whereas 44% of the youngest cohort – age 15 to 19 – agreed with the above statement, only 15% of those 60 or older reported finding it difficult to disconnect from time to time.

Age forty seems to be some sort of an inflection point for technology resistance, according to the detailed findings. Affirmative response rates for the three youngest age groups – collectively, those under 40 – were clustered in a tight range of 38% to 44%. But there was a 9-point drop-off in the affirmative response rate between those in their thirties (38%) and those in their forties (29%).

Percent Agreeing It’s Difficult to Take a Break from Technology, by Age Group

Age 15-19: 44%
Age 20-29: 41%
Age 30-39: 38%
Age 40-49: 29%
Age 50-59: 23%
Age 60+: 15%
Overall: 34%

Some psychologists and sociologists express alarm about modern humans’ constant connection to the Internet, fearing it affects how we communicate and interact with one another. A field experiment conducted in 2014 showed evidence of such an effect. In this study, preteens spent 5 days in a nature camp. Subjects in the test group were denied access to “screens.” Their pre- and post-test responses to non-verbal emotional cues were compared to the responses of a control group of preteens. Those in the test group exhibited significant improvement in their ability to recognize such cues, suggesting that time spent interacting with others, instead of digital devices, may well improve comprehension of nonverbal emotional cues and ultimately, interpersonal communications and relationships.

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