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Cell phones and the internet have become an essential part of the daily lives of Americans – so much so, that when asked how long they would feel OK without online access 15% saya day or less, 21% say a couple of days and 19% say a few days, and only one out of five say they could last a week.

That’s according to a survey of 1,011 people 18+ on digital technologies, conducted between September 7 and 11, by advertising agency JWT, reports the “No Silence Here” blog of Knoxnews.com.

Men were more likely than women to say they could not go without the internet for up to a few days – 59% vs. 50% – but responses did not vary significantly by age.

Highlighting the nature of the online addiction, 48% of respondents agreed, “If I cannot access the Internet when I want to, I feel like something important is missing.”

Among the general findings of the JWT survey:

  • 28% admit that they spend less time socializing face-to-face with peers because of the amount of time spent online or otherwise occupied with their gadgets
  • 20% say they’re spending less time having sex.
  • US users can’t go without the internet, cell phones and television – in that order.
  • Nearly equal proportions of men and women (60% and 58%, respectively) agree, “Digital technology is an essential part of how I live.” Agreement level decreases as age increases:
    • 66% of the youngest cohort agrees.
    • 57% of the middle cohort agrees.
    • 49% of the oldest cohort agrees.

Other findings on internet use:

  • 97% of those surveyed have internet access at home. Among them, men and women are equally as likely to spend “a lot of my time online.”
  • Almost three-quarters agree that they now shop differently, and two-fifths say more of their spending is moving online:
    • 73% agree, “The Internet has changed the way I shop.”
    • 42% overall and 45% of under-35s agree, “My spending is moving more and more from offline to online.”
  • Basic search is the most popular online activity: Sites like Google and Yahoo are the most frequently accessed, with a mean of 8.8 on a scale where 10 equals “all the time” and 1 equals “almost never”; usage is slightly higher among women than men (8.9 vs. 8.5).
  • Email is close behind search:
    • Email based on one’s computer scores a mean of 8.4, with usage slightly higher among women (8.5 vs. 8.3).
    • With a mean of 6.7, online email such as Hotmail or Gmail is next; usage remains slightly higher among women (6.8 vs. 6.5).
    • The younger age cohorts are more likely to use web-based email services: those under 35 have a mean score of 7.7 vs. 6.3 for the middle cohort and 5.5 for the 55-plus group.
  • Social networking sites score well behind other sites: Facebook, MySpace and other social networking sites score a mean of 4.4, behind seven other categories of sites, including:
    • Branded all-in-one-place home pages like MyYahoo or iGoogle: 6.2
    • Personal-interest specialty sites/communities (e.g., sports, music, photography, technology): 5.8
    • Online newspapers/magazines: 5.8

Findings on gaming, audio, WiFi, DVR:

  • Women are slightly more likely to own a gaming console: 44% of women say they own one, compared with 39% of men.
  • Those under 35 are significantly more likely to own a gaming console: 59% vs. 40% of the middle cohort and 11% of those over 55.
  • 34% own an iPod or other personal audio player, with men slightly more likely than women to own one (36% vs. 33%).
  • The youngest cohort is more than twice as likely as the oldest cohort to own a personal audio player: 49% vs. 15% of those over 55 and 30% of the middle cohort.
  • Men and those under 35 are most likely to use WiFi networking at home:
    • A quarter of respondents say they have WiFi at home – 30% of men and 22% of women.
    • 32% of those under 35 use WiFi at home, compared with 23% of the middle cohort and 19% of the older cohort.
  • 24% use TiVo or similar devices, with no significant difference by gender. However, use skews younger, going from 27% to 24% to 16%.

About the study: JWT conducted the random online survey of 1,011 Americans 18 years and older from September 7-11 using JWT’s proprietary SONAR panel: male -41.7% (422); female – 58.3% (589).

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