America's favorite pastime: Web surfing?

Feb 16, 2006
Surfing the Web

Jolene Troup finds herself surfing the Web during her downtime at work, whether it be checking her online banking statement or her Myspace mail to playing games or reading up on course descriptions on her school's Web site.

"I work at a real estate company and the market is very slow -- not much people want to buy new home construction," said the 21-year-old college student living in Gainesville, Florida, "so I have no contracts to put in, therefore I am bored and the Internet is the only entertainment or interaction."

Troup, 21, is only one of many Americans who are finding themselves spend free time online, turning the information highway into a place to hang out.

"Today's cyber culture is what society depends on now," Troup said. "If there was no such thing as the Internet, the world would be a boring place."

Some 40 million people said they surfed for fun on a typical day during the month, up from 25 million people in November 2004, according to a recent report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project.

Conducted in December 2005, it found that nearly a third of Internet users went online on a typical day for no particular reason, just for fun or to pass the time; while two-thirds of all Internet users admitted they had tried surfing the Web to just past time.

"I think this uptick in hanging out online signals that people look to the Internet as a destination in and of itself," said Deborah Fallows, a senior fellow and the report's author. "People have always gone online very 'purposefully,' doing their e-mail, looking for information, making transactions -- very specific tasks. I think that means that people are now looking to the Web for passing the time -- as place they can go and expect to be amused, entertained, learn something new or interesting, or just fill their idle time."

Web surfing for fun tied with getting news online in third place behind 52 percent who said they use the Internet to send or receive e-mail and 38 percent who use it for search engines.

Typical Web surfers were most likely to be male than female, younger and therefore more attracted to the Internet, had more years of Internet experience, and have broadband access.

So why the increase in idle web surfing?

Fallows says broadband and growth of Internet content are behind the soaring pastime.

According to Fallows, broadband, which is becoming more prevalent to consumers, is making hanging out online much easier and more pleasant for people as a pastime.

This seems to be the case with the penetration rate for home broadband access rising to 36 percent in 2005 from 3 percent in 2000.

Some 72 percent of Internet users who have broadband at home said they web surfed compared to 63 percent of dial-ups users. And while 39 percent of those with broadband surfed on a typical day for fun, only 23 percent of dial-up users reported having web surfed for fun on a typical day.

Fallows also said contributing to the increase was the availability of different kinds of content for consumers to enjoy. Indeed, according to the Hobbes' Internet Timeline by Robert Hobbes Zakon of the technology expertise group Zakon Group LLC, the number of Web Sites grew from 17 million in the middle of 2000 to as many as 65 million in the middle of last year.

"There's something for everyone," Fallows said. "For example, great new things to just explore, like Google Earth, or lots of blogs to wander about and just check out, lots of international information that can take people wandering around the globe for new perspectives and interests. That's just a few of the possibilities. Every-more Web sites from museums, accessibility to books, you name it."

With more people going online, this may also mean good business for the future of the marriage between mobile and the Internet.

"Imagine the possibilities of hanging out online while you're waiting for the bus, waiting for friends to arrive, waiting for your plane," she said. "Carrying the Internet around in your pocket will be able to substitute for talking on your cell phone, looking at magazines you pick up in the doctor's office,and many kinds of small time-killing activities."

And with cyber culture expanding, Fallows says this new trend is not only signifying changes in the Internet but also in consumer culture, shifting people's attention from the channel surfing to the Web surfing.

"More Americans are Web surfing to kill time, pass time, and fill time," she said. "It seems to be a positive change. There is more engagement there than channeling surfing. These people are going to the Internet, opening a broad world to explore that interests them, beyond being a passive receptor of the TV."

Copyright 2006 by United Press International

Explore further: Game technology can make emergency robots easier to control

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

The quick brown fox can help secure your passwords online

Oct 28, 2014

In 2004 Bill Gates pronounced usernames and passwords dead. Gates, a man consistently thinking ahead of the crowd, was right. Most of us – including our employers and the online services we rely on – just ...

States ascend into the cloud

Oct 24, 2014

Seven years ago, the state of Delaware started moving computer servers out of closets and from under workers' desks to create a consolidated data center and a virtual computing climate.

Mozilla is making plans for 64-bit Firefox browser

Oct 06, 2014

Late last year, a questioner sent his query to Mozilla support: "Is there still not an official 64-bit version of FIrefox available for Windows?" The answer: "Mozilla doesn't have a release version of Firefox ...

Some online shoppers pay more than others, study shows

Oct 23, 2014

Internet users regularly receive all kinds of personalized content, from Google search results to product recommendations on Amazon. This is thanks to the complex algorithms that produce results based on users' profiles and ...

Facebook goes retro with 'Rooms' chat app

Oct 23, 2014

Facebook on Thursday released an application that lets people create virtual "rooms" to chat about whatever they wish using any name they would like.

Recommended for you

Will Apple Pay be mobile pay's kick-start?

6 hours ago

If anyone can get us to use our smartphones as wallets, it's Apple. That's what experts think about the recent launch of Apple Pay, the first mobile wallet to work on an iPhone.

Google execs discuss regulation, innovation and bobble-heads

8 hours ago

Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg help run Google, one of the world's best-known, most successful - and most controversial - companies. They've just published a new book, "How Google Works," a guide to managing what they ...

Gamers' funding fuels meteoric rise of 'Star Citizen'

8 hours ago

Chris Roberts' brain spun out a grand vision: a rich, immersive galaxy; exquisite spaceships traversing between infinite star systems with thousands of computer gamers manning the cockpits, racing, dogfighting and defending ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.