What America Thinks Of The Internet

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Americans love the Internet because it bolsters learning, content creation, and sharing, according to a survey of 1,066 a thousand online users across various parts of the U.S. But that’s not what the US population adores most about the world wide web.

Asked how the Internet bettered their lives, respondents were quick to outline that it has made product discovery and shopping much easier than five years ago, with 81% highlighting this particular aspect on top of everything else. Three quarters underscored access to national and global news, followed by hobbies / personal interests (68%), keeping close tabs on their friends’ activity (67%), health & fitness (65%), local civic activities (49%), and even neighborhood affairs (39%).

An extension of the brain

Someone famous once described the computer as a bicycle for the mind. This was before everyone had broadband access to the web, before tablet computers, and before social networks took off. Coupled with mobility and full-time access to the web, today’s personal computers are full-fledged extensions of our brains, reaching as far as the Internet will carry it.

Americans know this much. 87% of online adults say the web and smartphones have improved their ability to learn new things, while 53% feel that the Internet actually has a major impact on their learning. 72% like having this avalanche of information at their fingertips, compared to just 26% who feel that the web is bloated with noise. This probably goes to show how many users know how to ‘filter’ their relationship with the web.

A canvas for creatives

Similar surveys were conducted in 2006 and 2007, when between 28% and 33% of users said they heavily employed the powers of the Internet for sharing their creations. Fast forward to 2014, that number has increased to 38%. Another 34% say they make “some” use of the global network for sharing in-house content, while 27% say they do so only moderately.

A notable difference in perception

Opinions regarding the world wide web and its impact are divided among different demographics. 76% of online adults believe access to the Internet has made the average American better informed, with just 8% saying it has deterred their knowledge of the surrounding world. At the same time, 77% of adults users say web access has made today’s student smarter. The same 8% believed the exact opposite.

Here’s the interesting bit. It was mostly the younger demographic that failed to acknowledge the power of the Internet, versus those over 30 who noticed that its impact on our cognitive side was significant. In other words, generation Z takes the web for granted.

These are just the highlights from the Pew Research study. The data set is pretty vast, so there’s plenty more to be uncovered in the actual whitepaper. Enjoy!

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