Is the Internet making us more stupid? This is the provocative question explored in this year’s A1 Social Impact Study. To set the record straight: No, on the contrary. As the key results of the study show, we are making ever increasing use of the various possibilities offered by the Internet to educate ourselves and broaden our skill sets online.
Thus 82% of all those surveyed make use of so-called life hacks, do-it-yourself videos (DIY) and other self-help and further education and training offers online. Two thirds of those who use these sources of information have even put their theoretical knowledge to practical use. Four out of five respondents said they used life hacks and the like mainly to solve acute problems and needs. Other important motives are to acquire new knowledge out of interest and to learn something in the long term. A disproportionately large number of young people, namely 40% as opposed to one quarter of the population as a whole, want to learn something for the long term with life hacks.
Online box of tricks instead of ask your neighbour
“Be it a recipe, repairing a mobile phone or a fitness tutorial: As the A1 Social Impact Study 2016 demonstrates, the Internet has become the first port of call for anyone seeking advice or knowledge in an exceptionally wide range of areas. Thanks to its easy accessibility, the constant availability of information and a certain anonymity and independence, the Web is in many areas even replacing friends and family as the most important source of advice”, explained Magarete Schramböck, A1 CEO.
Austria’s traditional reputation as a country where people appreciate the good life is also reflected in patterns of life hack usage: Austrians most frequently seek out information about wining and dining online. One fifth of those surveyed said they do this several times a week – with the next most popular topics being transport and navigation, and “health, body and sexuality”. Users under the age of 24 in particular look for information about the latter as well as for fitness & sport topics – with the body cult as the main area of interest.
“Advice is just a click away” – YouTube, the encyclopaedia of choice for Generation Z
The Internet has basically emerged as the most important source of knowledge and information for young people in particular. Already 95% of those under the age of 19 use life hacks and other learning opportunities online.
“At the same time, it can be seen that the so-called Generation Z wishes to broaden its knowledge first and foremost via videos and not through written information. Thus approximately two thirds of those under the age of 19 consume life hacks several times a week on YouTube. In practical terms, these videos also make it easier for young people to try out and learn certain things for themselves”, explained Prof. Rudolf Bretschneider, CEO of GfK Austria.
Life hacks: senior citizens gain greater independence
However, it’s not just the younger age groups who find self-help and knowledge online. Three quarters of senior citizens over the age of 70 who use life hacks, regard them as a means of obtaining information without being dependent on others. This age group mainly wants to use cookery tips obtained from the Internet.
But it’s not just the older generation that has a positive attitude: More than 8 out of 10 Austrians are convinced that the knowledge shared in the Internet makes their daily lives easier and is indispensable in a modern society. However, opinions about this can also be sharply divided as shown by the fact that millennials (25 to 30 year olds) and university graduates also regard the Internet as a source of dangerously superficial knowledge.
WhatsApp and Snapchat continue to gain ground
In addition to the topic of knowledge transfer, this year’s A1 Social Impact Study also focused on the use of messaging services. The results of the study confirm a trend that has already been apparent for several years: Use of instant messaging services is still on the rise and the number of users has again increased in a year-on-year comparison. Thus 7 out of 10 Austrians now use WhatsApp, which means the instant messaging service has even overtaken Facebook (with 6 out of 10).
“We are seeing a trend that Austrians often prefer their digital communication to take place in a small, closed group. For those under the age of 24, messaging services like WhatsApp are actually almost as important as talking face-to-face. Together with a personal conversation, it is the most important channel of communication with friends and family”, explained Margarete Schramböck.
Furthermore, there has been marked growth in the use of visual messaging apps and social network platforms among this age group. Snapchat and Instagram are already used by at least one third of those under the age of 24. Approximately half this group use these platforms several times a day.
Time-Out: Switching to silent mode is the equivalent of switching off a mobile phone for young people
As much as the mobile phone is an integral part of many Austrians’ daily lives thanks to messaging services, social networks, apps, etc. there has been a growing trend toward deliberate abstinence in recent years. Thus the number of those who switch off their mobile phone for more than four hours per working day is increasing, especially among those over 40.
At the same time, however, there is a growing focus on putting mobile phones on silent mode. The age group between 25 and 39 already put their phones on silent for eight hours per day. Among the under 24-year-olds, there are even 13 ring-tone-free hours. In particular, there is a greater appreciation of silence at the doctor’s, at restaurants, concerts, at school and when in the company of friends or on a date.
Note to the Editor
*A1 carried out the A1 Social Impact Study with the market research institute GfK Austria for the 17th time. The representative survey has been examining the influence of mobile communications on society since 1999. 1,100 mobile phone users over the age of 12 were surveyed online between 13 and 27 June.