Findings from this month’s QT study – a proprietary consumer tracking survey carried out by the7stars each quarter – indicated that 2 in 5 Brits consider technology addiction as damaging as drug or alcohol abuse – yet most don’t even attempt to quit.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the age group struggling most to switch off is millennial – they are the most prolific smart-phone users, with nearly 100% of people aged 18-34 using one. 67% of the 18-34 cohort admitted that they often feel they need a break from technology, rising to 71% among those under 24.
At the same time, only 6% of this same group admitted to actively turning off their phones at evenings or weekends, with 2 in 3 saying they like being connected all of the time. So what is responsible for this paradoxical state of mind?
Our survey indicates that there are several factors at play here. First is the blurring line between work and personal life, which is becoming more inter-twined thanks to the growth in mobile and social platforms. This is potentially why 57% of 18-34 year olds feel so dependent on technology, versus only 51% in the 65+ age group, who are largely retired, or close to retiring from working life.
We must also consider the changing nature of social currency. More now than ever there is an increasing social pressure to seem busy. In a recent op-ed in Campaign, Wagamama’s Customer Director pointed to the fact that for Gen-Y at least, “being busy can be an aspirational status symbol”. This increased pressure, and the need to broadcast this lifestyle, no doubt plays a large part in the desire to stay connected and in turn increasing their dependence on mobile devices in particular.
Despite this, there is evidence to suggest that consumers do want to be able to use technology to connect with friends and family on a more intimate level. Voice notes, for example, have gained popularity among young people, with 10 per cent 18-34 year olds now recording them in place of phone calls. Given that three quarters of the Londoners we surveyed are worried about losing the art of face to face conversation, perhaps voice notes will be the key to bridging the gap between using a more personal style of communication, and the pace of an ‘’always-on’’ world.
So what can brands do to help encourage healthier relationships between consumers and their devices?
They could start by re-thinking their approach when it comes to interacting with consumers online, and shaping communications around the needs of individual. Something as simple as avoiding sending e-shots late at night, for example, would be a good first step toward encouraging a healthier between the amount of time consumers spend in the digital world, and that spent connecting to people off-screen.
Consumer attention has become a valued commodity for brands, but as we move toward a healthier tech ecosystem, their priority should be to work with consumers and not against them by helping them take more control over their tech habits.