Numbers, Facts and Trends Shaping Your World

Americans increasingly view the internet, cellphones as essential

How hard would it be to give up your cellphone, the internet, your television or your landline telephone? When the Pew Research Center’s Internet Project posed that question to Americans, they found that internet users were the most attached to their communication platform — and that landline users are now much less attached than they were just eight years ago.

More Americans say giving up the internet and cellphones would be very hard or impossible.

The survey asked Americans about a total of six different communication technologies: the internet, cellphones, television, email, landlines and social media. Over half of internet users now say the internet would be “very hard” to give up. And among this devoted group, 61% said the internet was essential to them, either for work or other reasons. Translated to the whole population, 39% of all Americans feel they absolutely need to have internet access.

And while cellphone owners were pretty attached to their phones in 2006 (43% said they would be very hard to give up), that attachment has since grown: 49% would now have a very hard time giving them up.

These findings contrast with a declining attachment to televisions and landline telephones. Only 35% of Americans say they’d have a very hard time giving up their television, down from 44% in 2006. And only 28% of landline telephone owners would find it difficult to cut the cord, a sharp drop from the 48% who said this in 2006.

This may not be surprising. Americans have been ditching their landlines for years, as more households rely solely on cellphones. And our digital devices are offering us more and more ways to consume content beyond the televisions parked in our living rooms.

What may come as a surprise, however, especially considering that a majority of Facebook users check in on the site on a daily basis, is the low level of attachment to social media. Only 11% of internet users say social media would be very hard to give up, while 40% said it wouldn’t be difficult at all.