This Week in Elder News – 16 December 2008
The Real Economic Story

What Do You Like Best About the Internet?

blogging bug image A new survey from Harris Interactive for Intel has gotten a lot of publicity this week for reporting that 46 percent of American women would give up sex for two weeks rather than internet access. Men, not so much: only 30 percent would do so.

Although the survey included 2,119 adults of all ages 18 and older, Harris reports only one elder statistic: 52 percent of adults 45 and older would rather go two weeks without sex than give up the internet for one week.

The survey is titled, Internet Reliance in Today’s Economy, which we know is the worst economy in decades, and the results that got less media attention than sex are more interesting if not as titillating.

When respondents were asked to rank the importance of a list discretionary spending items, 65 percent reported that they “cannot live without” the internet. Other items listed in order of can’t-live-without:

  • Cable TV subscription (39 percent)
  • Dining out (20 percent)
  • Shopping for clothes(18 percent)
  • Gym membership (10 percent)

Apparently we prefer, by a large margin, sitting on our butts in front of a computer screen to exercising. That is surely true for me, much of it due to inertia. Once I'm at my desk, with the whole world at my fingertips, it’s hard to break away for a walk outside. Even harder to mop the floor or change the beds. There is always one more thing to check online which leads to another and another and – well, you know how that goes.

Ninety-five percent in the survey feel that it is very important, important or somewhat important for people to have devices that allow them to access the Internet. And an only slightly smaller 91 percent reported that life is better because of the internet in at least one respect. Among them:

  • Improves ability to stay in touch with family and friends (78 percent)
  • Able to shop more effectively (68 percent)
  • Better able to manage finances with online banking and bill paying

In regard to the last item, I’m irritated every month that a couple of my regular bills must still be paid by check because the companies do not accept electronic money transfers. It’s time they catch up with the 21st century.

I suppose blogging, which was not referenced in the survey, would come under the heading of improving one’s ability to stay in touch but separately from other services, it is high on my list of essentials now. I have met so many bloggers that I consider friends during the five years since TGB began that it is now its own social circle in my life without which I would be bereft.

In the decade since the internet became ubiquitous, it has become integral to daily life for banking, bill paying, blogging, shopping, email, reading the news, research and entertainment. I think the time has come when such surveys as this one are as silly as asking if you could live without a calendar.

Nevertheless, since the survey is on the table here, I’m wondering what the single best thing is that the internet provides you. It’s hard to choose one, but I’ll pick blogging for the many different pleasures it give me.

Oh, and as to the sex question – no doubt in my mind: if I must choose, I’ll take the internet.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Ellouise Schoettler writes of her new relationship with her mother in The Traveler and the Genealogist - Bridging Time.]


The computer is new in my life.
In the beginning I used it for daily contact with my children and information. Then I branched out to ordering my books. Last but a big surprise that began last March is my having an online journal and all the new friends that have come into my life because of this new pleasure.

I knew it! Your piece here this morning confirms that when I moved to the Planet Orland, I passed through an opening in the fabric of Time. Here, on this planet, the internet is considered to be a frivolous thing; fit only to entertain grandchildren or for elders without a 'real' purpose. Sigh...

But, back to your question. The single best thing? Sorry. I can't do it. It's all lumped together in my mind and it's all delightful. Plus, it lets me escape the Planet Orland whenever I wish.

The best I can do is to say the internet helps me to stay connected, that is to family, friends & any others of my choosing. I feel some "sharpness" return when I'm on line & I don't feel so isolated. However, unlike you Ronni, I can't move myself to do banking or bill paying on line. I guess I have "trust" issues! :)Dee

The internet and my MacBookPro are my work life, my communication center and a great deal of entertainment.
But not just for me, all three of my elders are on their Mac's everyday, emailing, chatting, reading the news all over the world in three languages.
I carry all of my work projects from house to studio in this little machine and just hook up to hard drives and large monitors at work. And back up every day. I remember my first music project on an early Mac that could barely handle it and now edit multiple tracks of video and audio with ease. Just amazing.

We are not at all surprised at the survey results. Over this past year we have discussed what we might have to give up because of tightening resources. Among the last things we would give up is the internet access. The internet has replace the Encyclopedia set and books as our first source of information. The encyclopedia went to one of my nephews for his kids several years ago. If we want to find new needlework patterns, new recipes, or other information, we hit the net first. All of our relatives and most of our friends know that the most reliable ways to contact us is by e-mail or cell phone (no land line anymore). Much of our entertainment is on the net as well. Would be totally depressed without it.

Really hard to answer that question ... blogging, yes. But I also use the Internet to receive reservations for our B&B. People find us through searching the Internet, which makes such a difference in the way we run our business. Sven can read Swedish newspapers, thanks to the Internet. I do spell-checking and research when I write. What I do not like, however, is being obliged to stay in touch with my grandchild in California through Web-Cam and feeling pressured to use it by the younger generation.

I love the ability to connect to others, period - hard to pick between blogging, email, and instant messenger. And information availability is a very close second.

As far as the other discretionary spending, I don't have nor miss cable TV (I rarely watch TV at all and rarely regret not being able to see something), I seldom dine out and in any case often prefer what's made at home, shopping for clothes is a screaming torture (albeit sometimes necessary) since manufacturers use absurd sizes instead of measurements for women's clothing, and as far as the gym, I can walk, pedal on a stationary mini-bike I own for bad weather, jog, climb stairs, and do household chores for free when I want exercise - and, except for the mini-bike, I might even manage to accomplish something else in doing so.

It's also a question of what substitutions are possible. The internet does things for me that would be difficult or impossible to accomplish other ways. Cable tv doesn't (in fact, if I want visual entertainment instead of books, the internet could supply it). Dining out doesn't (I am not a great cook, but I can manage with a recipe, and the familiar tastes from my childhood are superior to fancy dishes any day). The gym doesn't, as noted above.

Staying in contact with friends without the internet is possible, of course. I could use mail (where I know addresses, anyway), phone calls, and in-person contact. However, the first two also cost money and the last requires the person to be in the area (and costs money for gas unless they are close enough to walk). Many of my friends are out of state at this point. Plus, without the internet I would need to shell out for a newspaper and rely on the information in it - plus deal with disposing of it when I was done. The library would see me in browsing a lot more than it does - both because of the loss of information from the internet, but also because I would no longer be able to search their catalog and place holds over the internet.

Life without the Internet? When my power was out for a couple days last summer, I had horrible withdrawal symptoms. I tell people that I don't need a life -- I have a computer. Sad? Maybe. Do I care? Obviously not or I'd get off my you-know-what and do something about it.

Definitely internet is my main means of communication and learning what is going on in the world. I turn on cable news but then they tell me what they want to tell me on their schedule and I get impatient. With the internet, I decide what I want to know more about.

As for my favorite internet activity, that is really hard. Newspapers and reading blogs would come under surfing; so I would say that. I love writing my blog as it's a place to put up photos, like this week's snow, but if I had to choose writing it or reading other people's and the newspaper, it'd be the latter. Fortunately I don't have to choose :)

We would feel completely cut adrift without the internet and have experienced severe withdrawal symptoms when the connection has disappeared for days.

To keep in touch with friends and family who are far away, blogging buddies and our community expat forum are my priorities. For D it would be all about his steam locomotive passion.

Mind you, we'd feel the same about a world without books.

Interesting question. I used to like email and being able to look things up on the Internet. Since my daughter has got me into blogging that has become an obsession. But last summer in the wilds of Alaska we could only get on the net about once a week when we used the washing machines in a town building that has access. I managed okay with books, painting and writing on the computer. However, I won't do that again -- next summer in Alaska we will pay the price for satellite access.
I was not entirely clear about the survey. Was it sex for 2 weeks and the Internet forever, or just for 2 weeks. And what was included in sex? Is it just the act itself, or the really important parts, touch, the kiss, holding hands, hugs. Many women my age, and some men too, don't have a partner, so they have mostly given up sex already. I'm lucky, I have a husband, fairly new one, that I love and if I had to give up a nightly cuddle for 2 weeks I might opt for giving up the Internet. All those other things, like TV (don't watch),shopping (hate), gym membership (heavens!) or dining out (like it, but don't have to have it) I would let go in a red hot minute.

Sex or the Internet?

Ah, that is the question!

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;

Soft you now!
The fair World Wide Web!
Highway WWW, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember'd.

Just one question to my TGB friends: Is it true that excessive internet usage makes certain organs wither away and others, like the brain, grow exponentially?

(*you know a tall Texan prank when you read one, right?)

#1 - EMAIL! I love blogging but in my case, anyway, it's more or less a 1-way proposition (since hardly anyone ever comments). And that's fine. But at the core of everything for me is what comes IN. Emails from family and friends and also lots of newsletters from all over the place on every topic possible.

I hope I never have to be without the Internet 'cause I love it. But no email??? Yikes!

When I went back into the workplace 25 years ago, I discovered that I would have to become proficient with the computer if I expected to be able to get a decent job. I was horrified! I was sure I'd hit the wrong button and the thing would blow up! But I had bought my twelve year old a new MAC and he took it upon himself to teach me. And he did a good job! I was able to get a decent job and I found most companies offered all kinds of computer classes. By that time I was hooked and I took them all.

As a result I have been joined at the hip with mine for over ten years. But I had no idea how much more dependence I would feel until I started blogging and that was only six months ago. Needless to say, I'm now a complete addict! Sex? what's that again??? Okay, okay at 75 I probably wouldn't be a hell of lot of fun anyway! But I'm happy, I've finally found the perfect place for my big mouth!!! Fun post, Ronni!

i love it most of all because it's like having your own personal library of a gazillion books, newspapers, and magazines. i also like it cuz as a procrastinator, i can email birthday gifts the night before the big day.

The survey was an extreme, yet accurate way to show us how reliant Americans have become on the Internet. I'm glued to my blackberry, emails and social media sites and my job requires me to be on the web at all times. The Internet is becoming so much more affordable, quicker and easier to access. Even companies like Clear ( are making it easier for users to stay connected for an affordable price. Users can get on the web wherever they are in the city. And now that Obama is working toward a nationwide broadband Internet plan, I foresee these stats increasing in the future.

Jay Leno picked on this and had his own take." --% of women preferred internet to sex and __% of men didn't know there was a difference."

Since your sex vs the internet question is hypothetical then that's the kind of answer I'll provide. The former comes out ahead at this time, but is always subject to change from day to day depending on my mood and other factors. I like keeping my options open and sometimes don't like either/or choices since I think there are quite enough in life.

I enjoy blogging, but in the past have been unduly obsessed with doing so, even becoming angry with myself for allowing it to interfere with other important daily life activities. I think I've overcome this earlier internet addiction that I believe occurred partially because I came to the blogosphere in such close proximity to my husband's death. I used excessive blogging activities to avoid other actions I should have been focused upon. I realized I was doing so, but had a hard time with self-discipline to rectify my behavior. Maybe if I hadn't been blogging I might have engaged in some other diversionary activity, and did have a few others, so whatever....

I do enjoy reading the variety of topics and comments that emerge on various blogs, the opportunity to "meet" other bloggers the world over and having immediate internet access to so much information.

Writing has become an activity I enjoy though my comments and blog posts, in addition to letters I continue to send through the snail mail. I'm disappointed that none of my lifelong friends, people I know in person and limited family (other than my children)like to email. I haven't been able to entice them or anyone I've met in my community into blogging, too, with the possible exception of one or two much younger people.

Especially valuable is the frequent individual and group communication with my children that has been both important and enjoyable for all of us.

Before this past year i would have said my Live Journal and email as they allowed me to stay connected to friends and let people know about our travels.
This year by far my number one choice is the forum for the type of cancer my husband had. I found a community of caregivers who were also caring for their dying spouses. We supported each other, we taught and learned from each other, and courageous people gave us role models on how to take care of our loved ones and advocate with the medical system. Caregiving would have been a far lonelier experience without the forum.

My husband died early Tuesday morning so my caregiving days are done for now but I will be able to continue to support and be supported by others who know what it is like.

I just dumped digital cable and Road Runner in favour of basic cable and mobile broadband. cuts my cable bill by 80%, and I was paying for the broadband anyway (laptop).

My computer is always on, with multiple windows open into different worlds. I have my blog, my links and several message boards on which I am an active participant.

I am nearly halfway through my second year of being a widow, so the sex question is moot. At my age, a husband is a tough act to follow, and to be honest, I don't know anyone worth getting all sweaty for.

I go into withdrawal without internet. I don't know how I got by before internet. I would ditch my TV before I would get rid of my internet.

I haven't read the comments yet because it is Thursday morning and I am on my computer doing my "homework." I spend every morning here connecting with friends, former students, and business acquaintances all over the world through email and Facebook. I am especially grateful to Facebook because as a voice teacher of hundreds of students over the course of a twenty-five year career, I have been able to get back in touch with some of the "kids" I taught back in the '80's who are now married, with kids of their own. Some of them are even now carrying on the legacy of the love of music and theatre that I "gave them" as they tell me. That is one of the greatest gifts a teacher can receive. I also do almost all my current business on the internet.

As some of you may know, I am one of the actors on "50 To Death." I'm also the "Blog Mistress." I reach out to the internet community to share with people about things that are going on with our site, "" and with our series. We would never have been able produce our own web series with out the internet. We just found out that we are the #1 Comedy Web Series in New Zealand! How's that for amazing! I spent the day yesterday dizzy with the news. Almost as exciting as sex!

The single best thing the Web provides me with is the unlimited capacity to learn. Google, Wikipedia, blogs, Youtube, social networks put the whole world at my fingertips, connects my little hub with an exponential grid of information that contains the sum of all human knowledge and experience.

Did you know that 4 exabytes of information will be generated this year? That is more than the previous 5,000 years!

So much things to learn and share, so little time...

First "Cowtown Pattie" comment is the BEST of the week - maybe 2008.
Next: "Internet, Sex and Video"
I could live without all three but I'd miss them. We do become easily addicted to our little pleasures and even though they sometimes interfere with our interaction with the "Real World" There's not much "out there" that grabs my attention anymore.
Most of all, the internet offers a promise of connection and communication, often it's mostly illusory but that's OK too.

I like being able to look up information. There was a day when I spent a lot of time in the library but now I have the world's libraries in my home.

"Connectedness" is what I like most about the Internet. My husband died at home on November 13 of Alzheimer's Disease, which he'd had for 7 years and 4 months. The I-net allowed me to keep my sanity during all of those years of caregiving, by connecting me to family, friends, stores, banks, news, etc. My blog connected me to others who were providing care to Alzheimer's sufferers. E-mail brought amazing support and sympathy after my husband died. I could go on, but in the end, it's all about ... connectedness. (P.S. My deepest condolences to AEnodia who posted above that she lost her husband Tuesday morning. I sure do know what it's like. People say that with time it'll get easier, but not enough time has passed yet to alleviate the sadness. I've cried every day since my beloved husband died. The house is SO empty.)

Thanks, Mythster!

Sorry for your losses, SuzyR and Aenodia - don't know how you handle that tough time in your lives. Being strong and acceptance are great words but when it "hits home" -one day at a time is is all anyone can do. Sooner or later - there comes a time, as my Mother used to say.

Sex-what is that?

Internet - cool but so is playing the piano (badly) and reading etc. To me it is a great tool for keeping life interesting and maybe even organized. I don't know - just glad to have it there when I get an idea or have to pay a credit card bill. Oye Vay - will it ever end - owing money.

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