Idling Away The Hours Surfing And Spending On The Internet

In 2005 I had two foot surgeries, and, no, this article isn’t about the technological advances in podiatry! Although I did make a little “documentary” chronicling my procedures and recovery with Microsoft® Photo Story 3 for Windows®, it is too graphic for you my gentle readers. However, having to remain off my feet for extended periods of time gave me plenty of time on my hands (no pun intended!). So what else is a self-proclaimed techno weenie to do with her time but surf the Internet!

At first I spent my time catching up on industry news by reading online trade rags. As interesting as that may be, it can get a bit monotonous after a few days! Then I took an online class and that was excellent too, but one course was quite enough brainwork for me. Since I’m usually quite busy when I work on my laptop, I found it was a good opportunity to catch up with several friends via e-mail. But, my friends were still busy, so aside from short “hope you’re feeling better soon” responses, nobody else had time for lengthy correspondence.

One thing that I could do from the comfort of my bed or sofa without disturbing my friends and family was to shop! Now I can’t say that shopping online is as pleasurable as strolling down the aisles of my favorite petite clothing store, but “Windows® shopping” can fill many hours with delight! This time, pun intended!

About 145 million people in America (about 72%) use the Internet to do anything from sending e-mail to conducting research to making a telephone call or even purchasing groceries. It seems that my Internet habits follow a trend that has been revealed in a recent report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. The Pew study of more than 20,000 men and women over five years shows that men and women use the Internet for very different things. Women make up a larger portion of the population and therefore outnumber men in cyberspace. The study says that 68% of men and 66% of women go online.

Men are somewhat more intense Internet users, logging in more frequently and spending more time online. This seems to go hand-in-hand with the fact that more men are users of broadband than women. Well, when I had broadband, I was online more often and for longer periods of time because it was faster and therefore more fulfilling. Instant gratification!

The study indicates that women use the Internet to “enrich their existing relationships” while men typically practice solitary pursuits such as reading, furthering their hobbies or playing in fantasy sports leagues.

Women typically go online for e-mail, to ask for advice and to share news, while men tend to use e-mail for business or for forwarding jokes. Both sexes use the Internet to play games, to listen to music, to watch videos and to gamble.

On a typical day, 60 million American adults use Internet search engines; however, according to the Pew report, men use them more aggressively, more often and with more confidence than women. By the way, about half of all Internet searches are conducted on Google, but one of my favorite search engines Ask Jeeves, experienced a whopping 77% growth from June to October 2005 and is now in the top five ranking for search engines.

About 25 million Americans have used the Internet to sell something. I used an online auto site to sell my last car. I had advertised in the newspaper and didn’t get a single nibble, but I had two inquiries from the Internet ad and one of them bought it. Having the technology to narrow a search to one’s specific desires makes it so much easier to buy something like a car online. In fact, visits to classified ad websites have grown 80% in the last year.

Teens, it seems, like to create and share on the Internet. More than half have created a webpage or blog or posted original artwork, photography, stories or videos. Teen girls in particular are leading the pack when it comes to blogging. Now this doesn’t surprise me one bit! Teen girls like to talk, and usually are more verbally expressive than boys. Back in my day, we wrote notes to each other — lengthy notes, by hand! The concept of blogging would have been awesome to me and my gal pals.

When I discovered how easy it was to shop online, I made a vow to avoid department stores during the holiday rush. I can’t stand the parking problems, the crowds, the irritable sales clerks or the harried shoppers. One year I was nearly crushed by little old ladies when a sudden “blue light special” occurred near me. For heaven’s sake, is it worth all that?

It seems I’m not alone in my shopping preference shift because this year during the “holiday season,” online spending in the U.S. totaled $30.1 billion. More than $5 million was spent on clothing and apparel and $4.8 million on computer hardware (an increase of 126% over last year). We also spent $4.7 million on consumer electronics, $2.9 million on books and $2.2 million on toys and video games. That’s a lot of shopping, but “brick-and-mortar” stores still hold on to a 68% share of seasonal spending.

However, the trend is shifting to online shopping. Since 2002, online shopping has increased its market share by 11%, with catalogs losing 1% and stores 10%. Additionally, satisfaction with online purchasing has continued to grow, with 64% of consumers expressing they are somewhat to very satisfied. Visa reported that online spending by its cardholders grew by 26% over last year on Cyber Monday (the Monday after Thanksgiving) and some retail sites reported visits more than doubled that day.

Interestingly, the growth of Internet sales is not to the exclusion of traditional retailers, in fact their websites are growing the fastest. Retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target use the web to test market certain products and to attract consumers to their physical stores, and, they are also among the top four online retailers.