New Survey Shows Americans More Serious Online

As Americans gain experience online, they use the Internet more for their jobs, to make more online purchases and carry out other financial transactions, and to write e-mails with more significant and intimate content. According to a new report from the Pew Internet & American Life Project
, purchases of travel services grew 59%, from 29 million people who said they had made such a purchase to 46 million.


“The Internet has gone from novelty to utility for many Americans,” said project director Lee Rainie. “They are beginning to take it for granted, but they can`t imagine life without it.” The report on these findings, called “Getting Serious Online,” shows that over time Internet users become more purposeful, efficient, and self-assured in using the Web and e-mail to support some of life`s most important activities.


Online transactions registered growth across the board between 2000 and 2001. Internet users were more likely to have made purchases after they gained experience, and they were more likely to have done online banking, participated in online auctions, bought stocks or bonds, and made travel reservations. The largest growth in most of those areas came among those who were newcomers to the Internet in March 2000. With a year`s passage of time, they became more comfortable with money-related activities online.


The number of Internet users who have ever bought anything online grew 45% between 2000 and 2001 from 40 million to 58 million. Growth in online banking and participating in online auctions were also strong, with 79% and 83% more people, respectively, saying they had done these activities.


Greater use of the Internet at work is one major reason for this increased seriousness online. In a separate survey in January 2002, the project found that 55 million Americans now go online from work, up from 43 million who went online at work in March 2000. The longitudinal research shows that on a typical day, 36% of Americans with Internet access on the job were doing work-related research in March 2001, up from 25% a year earlier. Further, 44% of those who have Internet access at work say online tools improve their ability to do their jobs.

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The use of e-mail for sharing worries or seeking advice is now routine among Internet users. By March 2001, 51 million Americans had e-mailed family members for advice, up from 30 million in 2000-a 70% increase in a year. Similarly, 51 million Americans said they had e-mailed a friend for advice, compared to 32 million Americans who had done this by March 2000. This pattern extends to e-mailing family members to express worries, with about 40 million American having done this in March 2001, compared to 25 million a year earlier.


“It`s easy to see how people take advantage of a growing network,” said John B. Horrigan, senior research specialist with the Pew Internet Project. “Each friend who gets Internet access and each grandmother who sends her first e-mail builds the community of Internet users. The larger the community gets, the more likely it is that people will turn to e-mail to share intimate and crucial communications.”


Americans` more serious approach to the Internet has been accompanied by evidence of increasing efficiency online and shifts in the allocation in time between online and offline activities. An average surfer spent seven fewer minutes online during a typical day`s activity online in March 2001 than in March 2000.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project`s new report is based on a survey of 1,501 Americans from March 1 through March 31, 2001. Some 57% of them were Internet users. These same people had been interviewed by the Project`s polling partner, Princeton Survey Research Associates, between March 1 and March 31, 2000. At that time, 46% of them were Internet users. The margin of error in this survey is plus or minus three percentage points.
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