21st century's opium

No, it is not about a new drug. It's about internet. And according to a study by JWT, cell phones and the internet are becoming more and more an essential part of our daily lives. So essential, in fact, that the majority of 1,011 people when asked how long they would feel OK without online access, 15 percent of respondents said just a day or less. 21 percent said a couple of days and another 19 percent said a few days. Only a fifth more said they could go for a week.

"Mobility represents the next big shift," says Marian Salzman, executive vice president and chief marketing officer at JWT. "Older Americans are happy to sit in the same place to go online, while younger people expect to be able to connect anywhere at any time."

"Digital" is an essential component of life for a majority of respondents: Almost equal percentages of men and women (60 percent vs. 58 percent) agree that "Digital technology is an essential part of how I live." Agreement declines with age, from 66 percent of the youngest cohort down to 57 percent of the middle cohort and 49 percent of the oldest.

Specifically, the cell phone is essential to a significant minority of younger people: Overall, 31 percent agree that "My cell phone is an extension of me," with women slightly more likely to agree (31 percent vs. 29 percent of men). Agreement declines steeply through the age cohorts, from 43 percent down to 26 percent and 14 percent.

Men were more likely to say they could not go without the internet with 59 percent choosing one of the three options above; vs. 50 percent of women. Response did not vary significantly among age groups. Similarly 48 percent of respondents agreed that, "If I cannot access the Internet when I want to, I feel like something important is missing."

More than a quarter of respondents (28 percent) admit they spend less time socializing face-to-face with peers because of the amount of time spent online or otherwise occupied with their gadgets-a full 20 percent said they're spending less time having sex.

Cell phones win out over television in a question asking which device people couldn't go without. The internet, however, trumps all and is regarded as the most necessary.

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