Who’s Spending the Most Time Online? It May Not Be Who You Think…

Blog Post created by jthibeault on Oct 26, 2015

Note: Figures are taken directly from the 2015 State of the User Experience Report which you can download here.


When we talk about the “digitization” of society, we often focus our attention on the younger generations. And it makes perfect sense to do so. They have grown up with the technology in their hands. They don’t know of a reality in which they can’t Google something, or WhatsApp someone, or post a pic on Instagram. In turn, businesses have targeted this younger generation—the Millennials—with rich, engaging digital experiences in an effort to win their hearts, minds, and wallets. Only, in focusing just on Millennials, they are alienating a huge demographic; a demographic that is spending more time online that any other.


Before I do the big reveal, let’s look at how “time spent online” has changed in just a year.


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As Figure 1 and Figure 2 illustrate, there has been significant increase in the time spent online. While in 2014, the percentage of users spending more than 15 hours online (outside of work) was 23%, the number almost doubled in 2015 with 45% spending more than 15 hours online. So what might have caused this sudden spike in online activity? It might be the surge in online video viewing. As indicated in Figure 4 below, online video is the third highest ranked activity in terms of spending time online.


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So who’s spending all this time online? If not Millennials, then which demographic is it? Drum roll please…Baby Boomers. That’s right, where 45% of our total sample pool spent more than 15+ hours online outside of work, 51% of Baby Boomers indicated that they spent 15 or more hours online each week.


The question that needs answering, then, is why? If Millennials are those born to digital technologies, why are Boomers leading the way with time spent online? Although not intuitive, it might be a reflection of how each is coming to view these digital technologies. Having grown up with a phone in their hands, many Millennials might be railing against how these technologies isolate them even though they provide them unprecedented connection. In fact, Dr. Sherry Turkle, a psychologist and sociologist at MIT, writes about this in her latest book, Reclaiming Conversations. What’s interesting is that Millennials, as a demographic group in our study, are spending less time online than everyone else (41% versus 45% at 15+ hours per week online). This could reflect a subtle, but profound, shift away from spending so much time online and more time with physical friends.


Boomers, on the other hand, grew up in a world of real conversations. When they wanted to talk, they didn’t text or chat. They picked up the phone. But now, as they have become older and their friends and family have drifted away, they might find it difficult to stay in touch with a geographically-dispersed network of friends and family. Digital technologies, like social media, enable them to stay connected in a way that they couldn’t before. Boomers, then, are putting the technology to use for them rather than, as with Millennials, being consumed by it.


Regardless of the reason, though, it’s a startling finding in this year’s State of the User Experience Report, one that might have a ripple effect throughout the business world as marketers evaluate the demographics to whom they target their messaging.


What do you think? Why are Boomers spending more time online than Millennials?