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The rise of digital dependency

Every 12 minutes the average Briton will reach for their phone, and a quarter of adults spend more than 40 hours a week on the internet, which is equivalent to a full working week! In fact, we first look at our phone within five minutes of waking up and for 65% of under 35s, it is the last thing we look at before going to sleep.

These findings have been released as part of a study by Ofcom, which reveals the extent to which we now rely on the Internet for more then just a quick ‘Google’. Rather surprisingly, for the first time we have stopped making phone calls from our mobiles and instead use WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to communicate with friends and family.

Whilst the results are something we can relate to, there is also a more worrying side to the report. In fact, a fifth of British adults feel stressed if they can’t access the internet and are concerned they are addicted to social media.

Although a quick WhatsApp can keep you in contact with friends and family, more than half of those questioned said that smart devices are actually taking them away from face-to-face conversations.

The prevalence of mobile phones has also meant that attitudes to their use in public had changed. 83% of Britons aged over 55 said they thought it unacceptable to check a phone during a meal, but this figure almost halved among people aged 18-34 who feel comfortable with looking at notifications whilst out for dinner. There is some sort of irony in the fact that social media is stopping us from being sociable.

However, things might be about to change as Facebook and Instagram are set to introduce tools to help users manage their time on the social networks. The tools will let people set themselves time limits for using the apps, mute notifications temporarily and view a dashboard showing their use. Hopefully this will lead to the return of the conversation and a reduction in the number of clicks taking place of a dinner table.

It can’t be ignored that the rise of digital dependency has lead to a new way of living. Health and fitness apps track the miles you have run, watching Netflix on a commute is the norm and booking flights is as easy as a couple of swipes and clicks on your phone.

It has also let businesses find new ways to communicate with their consumers. Whether it is through paid promotions, inspirational content or even monitoring Twitter as a forum for end-user complaints, brands can now directly target and, more importantly, track the relationships with the end-user.

Smart phones and smart TVs etc. are changing the way we live, but are also introducing us to new opportunities and, with new technology constantly on the horizon, this trend shows no signs of slowing down. With Instagram and Facebook introducing this new tool, the focus can be placed again on the quality and useful benefits of social media, rather than the negative effects of its overuse.

If you’d like to hear more about how digital dependency could impact on your business, give us a call on 0121 454 9707 or email gary.hebblethwaite@hroc.co.uk.

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