Report Highlights the Need to be Connected
- Monday, October 12th, 2009
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A report into changing perceptions of technology has revealed that two thirds of the UK loves being connected at all times, and feels more relaxed when connected than when not. These people have been defined by experts as SOSOs, those who Switch On to Switch Off.
The report was commissioned by Virgin Media and completed by trend analysts and ethnographic researchers at The Future Laboratory. The study began by consolidating existing Future Laboratory insights and gathering a wide variety of desk research evidence. Stage two was a quantitative survey of 1,000 18-65-year-old Britons, with the final part of the study consisting of interviews with a number of experts including Siobhan Freegard, Co-founder of NetMums.com, Andy McLoughlin, Co-founder of cloud computing firm Huddle, and Psychologists James Brooks, Nik Simpson and Eva Simpson.
The need to be connected
The report finds that SOSO behaviour is not only reflected in a love of being connected to technology, but also by anxiety caused by the implications of not being connected. Over a third (35%) experienced anxiety when not able to use technology to stay in touch with their family, while 31% were most anxious about not being able to make money or work online and 27% were most concerned with not being able to connect to friends. Anxiety is also apparent when technology cant be called upon to provide advice, whether through online maps (25%), dating (21%) or shopping for the best deals (15%).
SOSOs know that, even if they wish to take some time out, the modern world will continue without them, says Psychologist Nik Simpson. At any moment, an urgent email may ping into an inbox, a client may call, an old friend may get in touch via Facebook, or a family member may want to get in touch. Therefore, to disconnect from technology may mean missing something we cannot afford to. Always being connected actually becomes increasingly essential for peace of mind, further reinforcing SOSO values.
The report also discovered that a large percentage of stay-at-home parents are SOSOs. Almost half (48%) find being connected at all times relaxing, leading to the rise of what is defined as the Neo-nest.
As well as fulfilling their role as parents, raising children and running the home, these SOSOs are making themselves heard far beyond the front door. With 85% of stay-at-home parents continually connected to broadband in the home, 13% access online parenting forums, seeking and giving advice to others in similar situations. A 2008 report found that parents are much more likely to go online than their child-free peers, dedicating over 11 hours a week to the Internet.
When not surfing online, stay-at-home parents are the most likely group to be surfing channels; just under half (49%) continually have digital television switched on. They are also the most frequent users of mobile phones at 62%.
Even when their output is not being consciously consumed, the modern stay-at-home parent either has devices on or on standby. Half of British households always have laptops (74%), mobile phones (76%), and televisions (7%) switched on simultaneously. As a result, the home has become a place where a huge amount of data is consciously and subconsciously consumed at all times.
The SOSOs relationship with the digital age is also an intimate one. Whereas the traditional view of technology has been something that should be rationed and engaged with infrequently, SOSOs do not share this view. Indeed, around a third of the population in the UK say they do not feel guilty about always being connected, with 31% of 18-24 year-olds, 29% of 25-34 year-olds, 33% of 35-44 year-olds, 31% of 45-54 year-olds and 31% of 55-64 year-olds rejecting traditional notions of appropriate technological use.
An always on lifestyle may not be for everyone, but the report highlights that there is a significant number of people for whom always being connected actually increases peace of mind, says Mark Schweitzer, Chief Operating Officer at Virgin Media. More than anything, these findings validate those who already consider themselves SOSOs and give permission to others who may still feel some level of guilt with always being on.