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June 10, 2009

Do you suffer from 'Internet fatigue?'

Posted: 11:55 AM ET

Pretty much every time I write a post about Twitter or Facebook, a good chunk of you lash out in the comments with some healthy criticism. You say there's too much information out there. Or that online social networks are ruining our society. Or you say the constrant stream of online blather is getting on your nerves.

Well, Luddites of the world, this post is for you.

I chatted recently with a researcher from the Pew Internet and American Life Project about people who suffer from 'Internet fatigue.' John Horrigan says there's a whole segment of the Internet-savvy population that lives online but kind of resents how connected they've become.

Take Horrigan's quiz to find out what kind of tech user you are. And check out the full Pew report.

In the podcast below, Horrigan and I talk about how he sometimes wishes his cell phone would stop ringing. And he offers some tips for keeping your online connections at a comfortable level.


I took the quiz and came out as a "digital collaborator," which basically is a person who get some creative satisfaction from making and sharing things online. True enough, since I do work at a Web site, and enjoy sharing photos and building sites in my free time.

I do realize the irony of writing about tech fatigue by ADDING more information to the Internet. Hopefully you'll cut me some slack and let me know what you think in the comments. What kind of tech user are you?

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Filed under: Internet • social-networking sites • technology


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Scott Lewis   June 10th, 2009 12:56 pm ET

I am a Media Mover according to the quiz. I long ago stopped doing much email on my Blackberry. I just don't need to be *that* connected. But I do love having my calendar and contacts on there. I like to think that I make great use of the internet and social networking without letting them take over my life. When I'm tired of being connected, I disconnect.


Lydia Negron   June 10th, 2009 1:03 pm ET

I do certainly resent the amount of time that I'm connnected to some gadget, whether the internet, cell phone or PDA.

It's becoming all consuming and not pleasurable at all.

Whoever thinks this is good for society as a whole, must have their heads examined.

For now, when I get home, no computer on, no cell phone on and I let my phone get answered by voice mail.


Mel   June 10th, 2009 1:04 pm ET

No. I spend most of my life online and it doesn't bother me a bit.


jdsuttercnn   June 10th, 2009 1:24 pm ET

@Scott: That's an interesting way to do it. Seems like a smart idea to use your devices - BlackBerry etc - how they work best for you. Thanks for the tip!

@Mel and @Lydia: Thanks for the comments. Those are interesting viewpoints. Lydia, have you found any ways to make your "connected" life less irritating? Have you considered disconnecting entirely?


Busola   June 10th, 2009 1:35 pm ET

I'm not sure what the quiz was meant to reveal. It simply gave me back the information I gave to it. Waste of time!


Brian   June 10th, 2009 1:45 pm ET

I'm with Scott as a Media Mover. I am also Gen X and do not really feel the pull to get the newest technology the minute it comes out. I still have no IPOD. I once was attracted to music, but now am happy to hear anything on the radio, especially if it is AC/DC. My cell phone does not take pictures and I do not need it to. I only upgraded from my 1997 Nokia when that upgrade was free. I can connect to the internet if I want to pay more, but I do not. I text occasionally. I was into instant messaging until it really interfered with work and personal lives, so now I just do not do it nearly as much.

I am always on the internet, though, at work and home and I enjoy contributing to blogs. I did my Master's degree almost completely online via chatrooms. I used my alumnus status to log into the college library and pull industry research reports for a job and I keep up with the times by surfing news sites. I am a news junkie and I do my best to keep up with current events. I am always reading. I do a lot of shopping online too and love sites where I can compare sites from various stores. Actually going to the physical stores sucks and they never have what I want. The internet and emerging technology and trends are awesome and used properly, they save a bunch of time.


Brian   June 10th, 2009 1:47 pm ET

I also turned my cellphone ringer off years ago. Now it just vibrates silently when I have a call and does not interrupt me or startle clients when I have a call. I wish others would do the same.


charmichael   June 10th, 2009 1:53 pm ET

According to the quiz, I'm a Desktop Veteran, and I think that's spot on. I use the Internet a lot and depend on it for just about all the information I need, but I use cellphones just as phones, and hell will freeze over before I start relying on texting as a way to communicate with people and posting my personal life all over the Web. I'm glad to see I'm not the only one...


OLD GEEZER   June 10th, 2009 2:10 pm ET

I CANNOT SEE WELL, NOR TYPE FAST. I TRY TO KEEP UP WITH TECHNOLOGY BUT I PREFER TO SEE MY GRANDKIDS IN PERSON.


RMitchell   June 10th, 2009 2:23 pm ET

I'm connected one way or another all the time. I have two sons out of the country and I have AIM on my phone turned on all the time so that they can get hold of me on their schedule. I text my daughter and my husband all the time. I do have an offline life, but I do spend a big part online. I make a point of being offline and spending some family time every evening when the family is home.


Stephanie   June 10th, 2009 2:37 pm ET

I'm a "Digital Collaborator". (By the way, it says I'm *an* Digital Collaborator. Hooray, grammar fail!)

I've met a lot of great friends online, some of whom I've met in person (and they're just as awesome offline as on). It's also helped me keep in touch with family - a Mom who is now a Facebook and Skype whiz, a sister who is constantly moving, a brother who's growing up WAY too fast, and a Dad to whom I've finally found something to relate!

As good as I am about the Internet, though, I'm abhorrent with a cell phone. It's basically my portable voicemail catcher... if I even remembered to bring it with me. My boyfriend and I joke that I should get an iPhone, as I bring my Touch with me everywhere and often forget my cell phone. I certainly like the suggestion! ;)

I hope to get a photography website set up soon. What I like about that idea is, I have a great and fruitful Internet life, but I also realize the importance of having a just-as-great and -fruitful offline life. Photography (out and about) and e-sharing (typing away) are two good ways to strike that balance.


Paul   June 10th, 2009 2:41 pm ET

Seems like I'm a "Drifting Surfer". Sounds OK to me. I'd get by without electricity if I had to. Let alone all the rest of the gadgets getting shoved at all of us today.


Vivian   June 10th, 2009 2:49 pm ET

I love my devices, can't do without them!!!


CFS   June 10th, 2009 2:55 pm ET

Too much tech. What people don't realize is that the minute an item hits the market, it's already obsolete and they're goin' to get suckered into buyin' an upgrade at some point. In the meantime, they're payin' all the R&D expenses that brought that obsolete item to the market in the first place.

I like the computer for my news. There's a lot out there that the mainstream media hasn't the guts to put on the air, or in print. I enjoy CNN on the tube, but I can tell even when they're holding back. Gotta keep those advertisers happy.


Edward Simpson   June 10th, 2009 2:59 pm ET

I have a cell phone I take with me on road trips in case the car breaks down and I need a tow, otherwise it stays turned off and in a desk drawer. Unless you are an organ transplant surgeon/recipient you probably do not actually NEED a cell phone. I think most cell phone calls are not necessary and are made for no reason than people say "Well, I've got this $200 phone and I'm paying $40 a month for the service. Guess I might as well use it." Hence all the calls that consist of "Hi. What are you doing?" I suppose that's OK if one is compelled to know what one's friends and acquaintences are doing ALL THE TIME- I just wish they'd not do it anywhere within ear range of me – or while they're driving a car on the same road I happen to be on. Please, hang up the phone and pay attention to what's going on around you.


Tina   June 10th, 2009 3:03 pm ET

I was on Facebook and dropped off. I had Twitter for about a month...closed that account and had something on MySpace but never really understood it and not sure even how to log in and remove my profile. I work on the computer all day...I like to get my news during the day but when I get home rarely use it. I decided to forgo tv as the cost of cable is a joke. I have turned back to the good old reading a book for enjoyment. Bottom line...I lost my privacy when being on the social networks. I have a LinkedIn account for business networking only.

Facebook started giving me headaches and was spending too much time which when I look back...a waste of time. I have always hated the cell phone but when I moved cross country away from my family it became the cheapest way to communicate since my parents don't own a computer. I need it for work too at times but really find it annoying. I will never buy an iphone and I was given an iPod a few years ago and I have never used it.

Too much techology and it is definitely overwhelming.


SM   June 10th, 2009 3:55 pm ET

How ironic is it that you have to click through 4 websites to get to the quiz?


Tim   June 10th, 2009 4:00 pm ET

I despise technology. I hate cellphones and being in touch through some networked appliance. Which is sad since I work as a software development lead for a major communications company.

I do not have a personal cellphone and was happy with a phone at my desk, but my employer could not accept that and provided me with a company cellphone despite my objection. If they try to force a blackberry on me (which comes with the implied responsibility to respond to emails sent at 11PM on Saturday) I swear I'll quit.

I suppose I need a career change. Too bad the pay is too good to give up right now... plus software programming is such an easy job to do. Though I imagine not quite so easy as 'columnist'.


Erik   June 10th, 2009 4:28 pm ET

Desktop Veteran: I love my high speed internet and laptop as I work from home and love the freedom that gives me. But cell phone? Nah. Only for phone but even then I don't use it much.


Kate   June 10th, 2009 4:37 pm ET

I'm an "Ambivalent Networker." This is vey accurate because I have folded mobile devices into how I run my social life. However, due to the volume of digital pings from others, I sometimes find all of my connectivity to be inrusive.


Matt Collister   June 10th, 2009 4:59 pm ET

Ambivalent networker

I don't mind the personal, one-to-one connection that defines the Internet, social media and mobile devices/networking. But one of the things that's always bugged me about the Internet and social media is the anonimity people hide behind.


Linda Eskin   June 10th, 2009 5:17 pm ET

I'm online and connected to my friends and communities via Twitter, Facebook, several discussion forums, and many old-school mailing lists.

I don't see how these things are any different from the telephone, ham radio, or a neighbor at the door. If you don't feel like talking right now, don't answer it.

The medium isn't to blame if the user doesn't know how to set social boundaries.


Ubik   June 10th, 2009 5:43 pm ET

Test says: Network Veteran. I agree, more or less. Mostly because I've learned how to filter out anything that's annoying. Too much spam? Adjust the spam filter. Too many tweets? Stop following those who generate frivolous tweets. And so on. I feel I have control over the situation, unlike my girlfriend who hates computers and feels controlled by them and the information overload.

When I first got my Android G1 phone, I was constantly using the maps, Google, phone and other apps. Mostly because it was a new toy. Now I only use those features when I'm on travel or I need some quick info (like directions, etc.) when I'm away from home. The interface is limited on these devices and I get tired at staring at the small screen and using the small keyboard. Most things can wait until I get home and use Firefox on my computer. Big screens and normal keyboards rock! ;)


Burt   June 10th, 2009 6:03 pm ET

The quiz got it all wrong, but meh. It said I was a Drifting Surfer, but Desktop Veteran is the description that fits me perfectly.

I work in IT, I'm online all day. Why would I want to get online at home, too? I mean, I CAN get online at home. Grabbing a map, or yellow pages lookup and an occasional email is all I really want from it.

My phone has a digital camera, can text, and can access the Internet. It's a piece of junk. Is it too much to ask for a voice-only cell phone that I can drive a tank over? Gimme durable quality, not bells and whistles.

I've got cable TV, but only because it's bundled with Internet for about the same price as Internet service alone. It still feels like I'm paying for ads. Pick a channel at random, 70% chance there's an ad running. Can't they just have an ad channel, and leave the History channel alone? That's all I'm asking for.


Vlad Nedelcu   June 10th, 2009 7:40 pm ET

I call it Fatigue 2.0...


Mike   June 10th, 2009 8:26 pm ET

This was a Cool quiz. I'm a Digital Collaborator....which is very true.
I love technology, gadgets, I have an iphone 3G, Macbook Pro, an ipod, an Apple TV, big screen LCD, DVR, several tv's & dvd players in my house, a wireless 802.11g Apple Airport Extreme router & network, 2 Apple Airport Express (to send music to digitally from my Macbook), 4 cordless phones, a Canon digital 10mp camera (& a Flicker page to share photos with friends & family), i'm on Facebook daily (several times a day), Myspace and other sites; bluetooth hands free link in my Honda Accord, have a laptop for work I use at home that I can telecommute with; I work at a bank doing SAS programming & other computer related functions; I'm very mechanically / technologically oriented – can do almost any home improvement project (electrical, plumbing, flooring, painting, gardening) - I think technology makes life interesting and fun, "knowledge is power", I love having the ability to get almost any kind of information online.
That being said, the internet & technology can be a huge time waster. It's easy to get sucked in and spend hours online. I have to force myself sometimes to get "offline" and get things done in the non-internet world LOL. ;-) Physical activities like exercise, housework, gardening are very important too, and also socializing face to face with friends & family 8^)
And lets not forget the environmental impacts of all this technology - the electricity used, emissions from power plants, what happens to "old technology", the toxic chemicals used in the manufacture & how too many electronic devices end up in landfills. I hope electronics manufacturers would do more to make products "greener", such as what Apple is doing....


Rob   June 10th, 2009 8:26 pm ET

The Internet is a double-edged sword for me: I despise that I need it to get work done, but I do enjoy it for passive reading and interaction. I prefer to do work with hardcopy memos and papers, telephone calls, and inter-personal discussions. An actual face-to-face visit goes a long way. I'm 32, and I feel like a dinosaur since I eschew the 'digital workplace'. I feel stretched way too thin by the volumes of email and phone calls, not only from work, but from my family (immediate and extended) as well. I wish we could just go back to sending cards and letters to each other.

On the other hand though, I enjoy reading blogs, websites, and playing a handful of online games. I have a Facebook account, but rarely use it to interact with family or friends. I get a lot of news from the Internet, but I find that all of the news that is out there doesn't apply to me at all–it's all just noise.

So, it's a necessary evil, with a few perks.


Escroft   June 10th, 2009 9:19 pm ET

Woot! I'm a Desktop Veteran! BOW TO ME, ALL YOU CELL PHONE LOYALISTS! I AM YOUR DESKTOP VETERAN! I DESERVE MY OLD AGE PENSION! Seriously, though, it says:: You are an Desktop Veteran ..... If you are a Desktop Veteran, you are a veteran online user who is content to use a high-speed connection and a desktop computer to explore the internet and stay in touch with friends. Your cell phone and mobile applications are in the background for you. In some ways, a Desktop Veteran may appear to be tech-oriented, but from 2004. You might occasionally participate in the online commons, but you treat the cell phone as if it were equipped only with voice capability. =D =D =D


Mark   June 10th, 2009 9:20 pm ET

The combination of the internet and all the devices has turned the world into a busy small town with a lot of clubs. Trying to be in all the clubs would consume your life, and I think some people like that. You can't escape the invites or the reminders that you missed a meeting because everybody else in town is also infinitely connected and aware. It's the new twist on Big Brother only everybody's watching everybody. Most of these would dry up and blow away except they're nearly free for users. All opinions now have almost equal value (that's the big loss – expertise is indistinguishable from blather and fiction). We live in a world with a million alternatives and they're always being updated. Maybe the best part of this is it makes a good book all the more precious.


Escroft   June 10th, 2009 9:23 pm ET

In respect to the quiz, it is right about me, very accurately actually. I treat cell phones for what they are... They are just cell phones to me where you blab. All those fancy applications mean squat to me. Being in one place experiencing the internet is a whole different story. You can't focus on your digital personality if you're always on the move in the real world. When you're in your house, in your room, sitting in front of your computer, you become a whole new person. It's like entering an alternate dimension. You can assume any personality you wish, you can explore things you wouldn't ordinarily get from a library, you can get access to news from everywhere around the world whereas with a television, you're limited to what they offer you. Your online gaming experience is much different than that of an Xbox or Playstation game. You feel like you're immortal on the internet, when only in real life, do you realize your own mortality.... That's what it feels like to me.


Charlene   June 10th, 2009 9:31 pm ET

I know how to use it all: social networking, blogs, twitter, smartphones, bluetooth, ipods and mp3 players, digital cameras, the IPhone. I keep up to pace about all the technology so I can always help someone else. Personally, all I use is a 3-yr-old desktop, a basic entry phone that only uses bluetooth for wireless connections, and a 3-yr old 5-meg camera because it takes damn fine pictures.

Hey, knowledge is power. And knowledge can get you points with family and friends.


Lava Kafle   June 10th, 2009 9:52 pm ET

Yes We do have Intenet fatigue. To take rest forget facebook or google or any other social public sites and get involved in own job.


Sean B.   June 10th, 2009 10:19 pm ET

I'm also a Gen X'er, age 41, but couldn't be more different than Brian and some of the others. The quiz claims I'm a digital collaborator, and I'll go with that. My wife and I dumped our VOIP home phone a few years ago and went 100% cell phone with txt msg'ing being our primary use. It also helps me keep in touch with my sisters who are both deaf.
I've owned several iPod's, now on a 2nd gen Touch, but rarely listen to music from my youth and teen years because I'm always looking for something new and interesting, mainly electronic music. I've noticed that do to the Internet, I rarely listen to full albums anymore and instead tend to pick and choose what songs I like.
I rarely read paper books anymore preferring to do all my reading through eBooks on my Touch. Since I go through a LOT of books, I read about 20 last month, I can't stand finishing up a regular book and then having to wait until I can get to a book store to get my next fix. I always keep about 10 new books waiting to be read on my iPod. Now, although I love my gadgets, I don't see myself getting a dedicated reader. too bulky and limited for my use.
Granted i was a bit late to the whole "Social Network" thing. My wife had to drag me into it because I've always been one of those people who like to keep a few close friends and few others. But, I've enjoyed it and found several people whom i had lost contact with over the years.
Now that I've said all that. i think people definitely need to decouple from their tech lives and do other things. Go sailing, skiing, something! Geez, these are tools, not what identifies you!


pochp   June 10th, 2009 11:57 pm ET

I don't have to take a quiz to know that I suffer from internet fatigue or cyberstress.
First, I'm a networker.
Secondly, I'm semi- workaholic. That's why at the end of each day, I felt like I've ridden a ferris wheel the whole day!


archanaccp   June 11th, 2009 2:42 am ET

There should be balance between online and offline existence.

When I am in office i am connected all the time but i disconnect when i reach home... n that works fine for me.

Archana
Resource VC
http://www.planetaikon.com


Sharon   June 11th, 2009 3:40 am ET

I'm a Digital Collaborator. Guilty as charged, but doesn't bother me one bit.


jdsuttercnn   June 11th, 2009 9:07 am ET

Thanks for all of the comments! Sounds like the best idea to come out of this is the realization that phones/the Internet/social media are tools. You can choose to use them how you wish. And it's important to think about what's right for you, rather than just get caught up in the tidal wave of information online simply because it exists.

Thanks again for the informative discussion! I'm glad so many of you enjoyed the quiz.

–John / CNN.com


Darren   June 11th, 2009 3:44 pm ET

As I was growing up, and all throughout middle school and high school (And somewhat into college), I spent an enormous proportion of my free time socializing on the internet, both with real life acquaintances and those I had met in chat rooms or online games. For most of this time, I was far ahead of the curve compared to most people I knew online in terms of how much time I spent and how much of my social life was digitized. What I see now from most people far exceeds the degree to which I was internet-bound in my socialization. Just as I came to realize that face-to-face interaction was far more valuable from an emotional point of view, I feel that most people today will reach the same conclusion and scale back the degree to which they put their lives into cyberspace.


pmetro   June 11th, 2009 11:20 pm ET

I don't know what the point of this study is ? It seems every once and a while technology's impact on social behavior is scrutinized. What methods of communication people use are studied and those who seek the answers are constantly scratching their heads and debating whether it's acceptable, gain full and/or disruptive to society. Possibly this survey is more for marketing, fishing for trends or just exploitation of communication. It's up to each person to use communication tools that are available whether they wish to or not. For business purposes though, many wouldn't be caught short without the latest gadget to let them finish in first place.


Michael   June 15th, 2009 3:41 am ET

Ambivalent Networker

I'm really impressed that this test was able to determine my view of technology so accurately.


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About this blog

Are you a gadgethead? Do you spend hours a day online? Or are you just curious about how technology impacts your life? In this digital age, it's increasingly important to be fluent, or at least familiar, with the big tech trends. From gadgets to Google, smartphones to social media, this blog will help keep you informed.

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