Other interesting takeaways: The results reveal predictable correlations between age and use (if we assume a correlation between early or late technological acculturation). The older you are, the less time you’re likely to spend with electronic devices in a given day, so for instance, 28.8% of those aged 18 to 29 spend one to three hours a day watching electronic devices, compared with 40.6% of those aged 65 or older, but jump to “10 hours or more” and 16.5% of those aged 18 to 29 are engaged with electronic devices, compared with just 4.3% of those 65 or older. There’s also an ethnic difference: 34.3% of those describing themselves as “White” spend one to three hours a day watching electronic devices, compared with 24.1% of those describing themselves as “Black,” but jump to over 10 hours and things reverse–12.2% White and 20.1% Black.
Gender-wise, there’s little difference between the sexes, just a few points one way or another, with males leading by the most–about seven points–in the four to six hour slot. But jump to “10 hours or more” and men and women are tied at 12%. It’s about the same if you sort by political affiliation, though those identifying as “Independent” tend to be notably less engaged in the one to three hour slot, but notably more so in the higher viewing ones.
The implications of a shift in hours-per-day to electronic technology aren’t clear, since the poll doesn’t identify specific devices or usage type, but we can make some general assumptions. Like: Consumers of news content on electronic devices probably get more up-to-date and, in theory, more in-depth information as well as more angles on that information (I’m thinking about content linking and social networking in particular) than those engaging with older media (print newspapers or radio). We’re also, it stands to reason, consuming a lot of electricity.
And there’s the “shift” question: How fare along the gradient are we in terms of new replacing its antecedents. The poll doesn’t specify prior group totals to indicate where we’re at–it’s more like a snapshot–but I’m assuming the surge in tablet, smartphone, e-reader and e-book sales underlies many of these numbers, and you can probably draw your own conclusions about any of that without my help. I’ll note that I live in Ann Arbor, Michigan, ground zero for the recently defunct mega-bookseller Borders, and I watched this summer as first one store, then two more–including the company’s flagship store–were shuttered.
What any of this isn’t: a surprise. Not really. Though electronic devices come with caveats, including all the less desirable info-juggling (advertisements, spam, privacy concerns) that eats into those hours, they offer users an escalating range of choices–economic, social, informational, educational–the older mediums simply can’t. That makes them exactly as important as the stick, the wheel or the pencil were when those shifts occurred, and who knows how many orders of magnitude as powerful.