If someone asked you to quantify the time you spend online, how would you answer? If you're like one-fifth of Americans, you'd likely say "almost constantly." New research shows that 21 percent of Americans report that they're online more or less incessantly.
It was the first time the words "almost constantly" were an option in a Pew Research survey about internet use, notes Andrew Perrin, a research assistant at Pew, in a blog post about the survey. During the survey, which was conducted between June and July this year, adults were asked how much they go online. Thirteen percent said they do not go online at all, and another 13 percent said they go online several times a week or less. Only ten percent said they go online once a day, and much larger quantities said they go online several times a day (42 percent) or "almost constantly" (21 percent).
Interestingly, there wasn't a gender split when it came to near constant internet use. Age, on the other hand, seems to be the great digital divider: Only six percent of people over age 65 said they're online that much, and the number grew from there. Those who report that they are online all the time include 12 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds; 28 percent of 30- to 49-year-olds; and 36 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds.
Don't assume that teenagers are online even more than adults, however. In another survey, Pew found that while they do have a slight edge on adults in general when it comes to "almost constant" internet use—24 percent said they're online pretty much all the time—they still fall significantly behind the 36 percent of adults between 18 and 29 years of age who are always online.
Could the discrepancy between teens and young adults have to do with older folks' unrestricted access to mobile phones with generous data plans? Possibly. Or maybe money is a factor: The richer you are, the more internet you're likely to use. Twenty-eight percent of people who earn $70,000 or more report being online constantly, while only 16 percent of those who earn $30,000 or less report the same usage.
Given that the United Nations considers unrestricted internet access to be a human right, the number of Americans who report being online "almost constantly" could rise along with availability and affordability. But it remains to be seen whether being online all the time actually something to aspire to—or how constant connectivity will impact American culture in the long term.