Nearly half of college students prefer Internet to friends, dating (study)

Being connected to the Internet is becoming more important than friends and even dating for a staggering percentage of college students and young professionals, according to a new report from Cisco.
Written by Rachel King, Contributor

Social life is becoming less about personal interaction and more about being connected to the Internet. That and more rather shocking items about how the Internet is impacting the social lives of young people is revealed in the second annual Cisco Connected World Technology Report.

For reference, this study is based on the responses of 1,400 college students between the ages of 18 and 23 and another 1,400 young professionals under 30 years old. It was conducted and translated into the local languages in the following 14 countries: the United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Russia, Japan, China, India, Australia, Mexico, Brazil and Canada.

Here's a snapshot of some of the more surprising results:

  • Two-thirds of students (66 percent) and more than half of young employees (58 percent) answered with a mobile device (i.e. laptop, smartphone, tablet) as "the most important technology in their lives."
  • 19 percent of college students listed smartphones as their "most important" device used on a daily basis, compared to 20 percent for desktops
  • About nine of 10 (91 percent) college students and young professionals (88 percent) globally have Facebook accounts. One-third (33 percent) of them check their Facebook accounts at least five times per day.
  • One of five students (21 percent) have not bought a physical book (excluding textbooks required for class) in a bookstore in more than two years – or ever.
  • If forced to choose between one or the other, about two of three students (64 percent) would pick the Internet over having a car (36 percent).

And these could be considered disturbing statistics about the way younger folks socialize these days:

  • One in three college students and young professionals consider the Internet to be as important to survival as air, water, food and shelter
  • 55 percent of college students and 62 percent of young employees say they could "not live" without the Internet
  • In a given hour, more than four out of five (84 percent) college students are interrupted at least once by digital media (i.e. instant messaging, social media updates and phone calls).
  • Two of five college students surveyed globally (40 percent) affirmed the Internet is more important to them than dating, going out with friends, or listening to music.
  • More than one in four college students globally (27 percent) admitted staying updated on Facebook was more important than partying, dating, listening to music, or hanging out with friends.

There's something very wrong (in a sad way) about those last two findings.

Much of the research here is focuses on the consumer side of the Internet, but Cisco analysts argue that these trends will have an impact on the business social software space as well.

"This generation looked at the Internet access differently than how most businesses treat the Internet," said Joel Conover, Cisco’s director of product marketing.

Although one motive for this report is to generate conversation, Conover added that it can also give a little bit of insight into the minds of this generation to CIOs as well as HR professionals.

He explained that organizations that have more open policies (i.e. as to what social networks they can access from work) are able to attract more talent in the coming years. If work policies prohibit things like Facebook, Conover warned, those companies are "essentially limiting their choices."

Yes, although the study reveals that online media does present interruptions to productivity from time-to-time, the world's next generation of workers will still demand access to these mediums -- even if they are limited.

The second and third installments of the Cisco Connected World Technology Report will be published in November and December. Those chapters will cover the growing use of the Internet and mobile devices in the workplace, and how the next generation’s attitudes toward more open access to information and social media present a greater security risk to their companies.


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