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Constant internet access is disrupting the quality of human relationships, says Ofcom report

In our increasingly always-on society, people expect to be connected everywhere through a wide range of devices. As much as people realise the benefits of being online, many are also realising that constant internet access is disrupting the quality of human relationships. This is according to the Ofcom report Communications Market 2018, which analyses key market developments in the UK communications sector.  

Proportion of time spent online, by device and location

Key findings

  • People spend a total of one day a week online (24 hours), more than twice as much as in 2011.
  • Seven in ten commuters use their smartphone on their journey.
  • The most popular smartphone activities for commuters are sending and receiving messages (43%) and using social media (32%).
  • Young adults are more likely to multi-task on their smartphones while they commute: 27% of 18-34s engage in at least five online activities while commuting, but only 9% of over-35s do so.
  • Most adults acknowledged the value of being connected, with three-quarters agreeing that being online helps them maintain personal relationships. But they also acknowledge its drawbacks, such as interrupting face-to-face communications with others.
  • The benefits of the last ten years of connectivity have not been distributed equally. Lower-income households and over-54s are less likely to have smartphones, laptops and tablets, but are as likely to have a TV.
  • Mobile phones and TVs are the only communications devices with near-universal reach in the UK (96% and 95% of households).

Reaction to being unable to connect to the internet

Discussing how technology is changing modern society, Ian Macrae, Ofcom’s director of market intelligence, says: “Over the last decade, people’s lives have been transformed by the rise of the smartphone, together with better access to the internet and new services.

“Whether it’s working flexibly, keeping up with current affairs or shopping online, we can do more on the move than ever before. But whilst people appreciate their smartphone as their constant companion, some are finding themselves feeling overloaded when online, or frustrated when they’re not.”

The balance between using mobile technology to enhance our lives and stopping it interfering with our relationships is a difficult one to maintain. This further increases the challenge of brand communicators to find ways of engaging consumers, without interfering with their lives.

Claimed time spent going online each week, by location


The methodology for the report can be found here.  

The full report can be found here.

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