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The benefits — and drawbacks — of online technology

A new survey was conducted by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future.

Cellphones and social media may often seem like nuisances or time-burners, but a survey by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future and Bovitz Inc. shows that large percentages of Americans who use online technology do indeed see its benefits — namely, doing more in less time, working from anywhere and relishing the thrill of trying new technology.

“Every development in communication from the printing press to the personal computer has produced new social effects,” said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future, based at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. “Now, as interactive mobile technology increasingly becomes a 24/7 experience, we find users recognize they are reaping new types of benefits from technology — along with negative effects at home and work.”

The survey, which explores the views of Internet users ages 13 to 91, found Americans see fundamental benefits in using online technology:

• Seventy-four percent of respondents said they are able to do more in less time with their technology.
• Seventy-two percent are excited to try new technology.
• Fifty-five percent said they would rather work remotely than in the office.
• Forty-five percent said they have more time for their family and friends because technology enables them to do work from anywhere.

While most Americans benefit from online technology, smaller but notable percentages of users said those services exact a personal toll in the form of increased stress, struggles to learn new technology and conflicts in separating careers from personal lives.

The negatives found in the survey include:

• Thirty-one percent said technology has made it harder to separate their work and personal lives.
• Twenty-six percent said they are stressed because technology has made them always on call for work.
• Twenty-five percent reported that they struggle to figure out new technology.
• Twenty-one percent said being accessible through a mobile device has made their lives more stressful.
• Twenty percent said they frequently resent having to work at home because of what technology makes possible.
• Sixeen percent said their personal lives have suffered because of technology in their work lives.

As in other research released recently by the USC center and Bovitz, the current study found a “millennial rift” — a gap between the views of millennials and nonmillennials — on several issues involving the consequences of using technology.

Among the differences reported in the positive effects of technology:

• Eighty-five percent of millennials said they are excited to try new technology, compared to 64 percent of nonmillennials.
• Eighty-four percent of millennials said they are able to do more in less time with their technology, compared to 68 percent of nonmillennials.
• Fifty-two percent of millennials said they have more time for family and friends because technology enables them to do work from anywhere, compared to 42 percent of nonmillennials.

And larger percentages of millennials reported personal problems that result from using technology.

• Twenty-five percent of millennials who are employed said they frequently resent having to do work at home because of what technology makes possible, compared to 18 percent of nonmillennials.
• Nineteen percent of millennials who are employed said their personal lives have suffered because of the technology in their work lives, compared to 15 percent of nonmillennials.
• Twenty-five percent of millennials said being accessible through a mobile device has made their lives more stressful, compared to 20 percent of nonmillennials.

“Millennials may embrace technology more enthusiastically than nonmillennials, but larger percentages of them also recognize that using technology comes with consequences,” said Greg Bovitz, president of Bovitz Inc. and a senior fellow at the Center for the Digital Future.

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The benefits — and drawbacks — of online technology

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