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Brits seek 'digital detox'

News, 05 August 2016

LONDON: A third of adult internet users in the UK have chosen to take a "tech timeout" and spend more time doing other things rather than having their days hijacked by connected devices.

According to the Communications Market Report 2016, a study of the media habits of 2,025 adults and 500 teenagers from regulator Ofcom, 34% of adults – a total of 15m people – have sought time away from the internet and 11% had done so in the preceding week.

The degree of commitment to this exercise varied. Among these digital down-timers, 25% spent up to a day internet-free, while 20% took up to a week off; 5% went web-free for up to a whole month.

The most common reasons given for ditching the web were to spend more time doing other things (cited by 44%) and more time talking to friends and family (38%).

And many people reported that their time offline had been a positive experience: a third (33%) said they felt more productive, 27% found it liberating, while a quarter (25%) enjoyed life more.

Not everyone felt these benefits, however: 16% experienced a fear of missing out, while 15% said they felt lost and 14% "cut off" as a result.

Holidays were seen as one of the best times for switching off and 16% of adults said they had purposely visited a destination with no internet access; a hardcore 9% had decided to go somewhere that didn't have mobile phone coverage either.

The growing desire to escape digital demands comes as people are better connected than ever – via smartphones, tablets, 4G and superfast broadband – and regard the web as important to their daily lives, whether that's for keeping up to date on current affairs (78%) or finding inspiration to try out new things from restaurants to recipes (63%).

But the ease of access means that people find themselves spending far longer online than they meant to. This so-called "connectivity creep" has led to neglect of housework (cited by 48% of adults), missing out on sleep (47%) and missing out on time with friends and family (31%).

One quarter of teens (26%) had been late for school because they'd been online, while six in ten teenagers (60%) said they'd neglected school work for the same reason.

"Our love affair with the web isn't always plain surfing, and many people admit to feeling hooked," said Jane Rumble, Director of Market Intelligence at Ofcom.

"So millions of us are taking a fresh look at the role of technology in our lives, and going on a digital detox to get a better tech-life balance."

Data sourced from Ofcom; additional content by Warc staff