Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How the Internet is changing our daily lives

There is no doubt that the Internet has changed the lives for many of us, both at home and at work. Email, online retail, online news and plain googling around have transformed the way we communicate, inform ourselves, work and shop. How much this happened is an open question, and it must be very heterogeneous.

Scott Wallsten offers some important insights thanks to the American Time Use Survey. Comparing survey responses from 2003 to 2011, he figures out what time spent online must have crowded out. One third of it comes out of leisure, mostly TV viewing, another third of it working, one eighth less sleep, one tenth less traveling, and the rest from household chores and education time. Can we consider that this mix also represents what we do on the Internet (except for the sleeping part)? Not necessarily, as it must also have transformed the productivity at doing things. For example, news reading is now much more efficient, in my case working, too, but it is easy to wander off during surfing, and this must be increasing leisure time.

Note that the ATUS measures only "computer use for leisure" but I figure that a survey respondent working at home on the Internet must have be confused what to answer. Indeed this is the only way it would make sense that online time would have reduced work time. As far as I can see it, online time at work is not measured.

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