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What are you doing on the Web? Most under 30 are wasting time

December 2, 2011 |  5:39 pm

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The Internet is one of the greatest inventions of all time, allowing for a nearly instantaneous sharing of information that the world had never come close to previously.

But for most people under the age of 30 in the U.S., the Web is mostly a time killer, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project.

"Americans are increasingly going online just for fun and to pass the time," the Pew Research Center said in its report, released Friday. "On any given day, 53% of all the young adults ages 18-29 go online for no particular reason except to have fun or to pass the time.

"Many of them go online in purposeful ways, as well. But the results of a survey by the Pew Research
Center’s Internet & American Life Project show that young adults' use of the Internet can at times be
simply for the diversion it presents. Indeed, 81% of all young adults in this age cohort report they have used the Internet for this reason at least occasionally."

The report, of course, is one more testament to what many of us already know, given the declining profits seen for years by TV networks, print publishers and record companies -- not to mention the popularity of memes, LOLcats, YouTube and other online time-wasting cultural phenomena.

Pew also found that the Web as a pastime is on the rise.

"These results come in the larger context that Internet users of all ages are much more likely now than in the past to say they go online for no particular reason other than to pass the time or have fun," the report said. "Some 58% of all adults (or 74% of all online adults) say they use the Internet this way. And a third of all adults (34%) say they used the Internet that way 'yesterday' -- or the day before Pew Internet reached them for the survey. Both figures are higher than in 2009 when we last asked this question and vastly higher than in the middle of the last decade."

So what's to explain the increase in time wasting on the Web? Pew is pointing to "a variety of trends," including the growth of broadband Internet connections, the increased use of video on the Web and the meteoric rise of social networking.

"All of those factors are strongly associated with people who use the Internet for fun: If they have broadband, if they are online video consumers, if they use social media of any kind -- especially social networking sites -- they are much more likely than others to go online to pass the time."

A bit of perspective: when Pew first started tracking the Internet as a diversion, back in March 2000, 29% of adults and 63% of the Internet users at that time said they surfed the Web as a time waster.

"At that time, age and class were the biggest factors associated with using the Internet this way,"  Pew said. "More young adults were online and more of them were using the Internet as a diversion. And more relatively well-off and well-educated people were online and using the Internet as a diversion.

"In the ensuing years, men and women, blacks, Latinos and whites, those in higher-income households and lower-income households, those with a lot of education and those without as much education, have all increased their use of the Internet for this reason."

However, some things remain unchanged in Pew's findings. "It is still the case, though, that well under half of senior citizens and those without high school diplomas are using the Internet as a way to kill time and divert themselves."

RELATED:

Google+ tops Twitter's shared news items, Pew says

Pew report: About 13% of adults online in the U.S. use Twitter

Pew report: Facebook users have a higher degree of social well-being

-- Nathan Olivarez-Giles

Nathan Olivarez-Giles+

Twitter.com/nateog

Photo: In March 2010, Kayla Eland checks her email sitting in the window of her dorm room at Pitzer College in Claremont. Credit: Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times

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