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Tuesday, 03 March 2009 14:44

Aussies finding new friends on the Internet, but personal approach still preferred

The average Australian now spends an hour and a half of their leisure time online each day, with most of us – 79 percent to be precise - logging in from home every day, even though many have actually met an online acquaintance in person.

The Digital World, Digital Life study, which investigated online behaviour in 16 countries including Australia, found that we spend one-third of our leisure time online which is similar to many other countries.  However, several Asian nations are leading the way in terms of spare time spent online, like China with 44%, Korea 40% and Japan 38%.

Conducted by market information group TNS, the global study found that in the UK, people are spending 28% of their leisure time on the internet, and in the US, it’s slightly more with 30% spending their spare time in online pursuits.

TNS’s Marcus Pritchard said the findings from the study showed how far the internet had progressed in becoming part of everyone’s daily lives, and he said research was showing that Australians were becoming more and more engaged in social networking, online communities and virtual worlds.

According to the study, one in two Australians use social networking sites, such as Facebook or MySpace, and on average we are members of 2.7 different sites.  The global average is membership to 2.5 different sites, with the leading nation Korea at 4.6.

“Apart from social networking sites, however, we’re not active contributors to the internet. We’re more feeders from it,” Pritchard said.

“Content generally is not the key activity here,” says Pritchard. “We’re information downloaders – we’ll take what’s there but not always provide content.”

Generally, awareness of web 2.0 platforms in Australia is high, according to the study, but contribution to these mediums is low, particularly when compared to other countries.  While 93% are aware of blogs, only 40% have accessed them and even fewer have contributed (13%).  Likewise, many of us going online (83%) are aware of virtual worlds, but only 26% have viewed or contributed to these sites, such as SecondLife.  Awareness of wikis is lower at 71% with only 6% having contributed to these knowledge sharing platforms.

And, it seems there’s some propensity for Australians to seek out relationships on the Internet, with one in three (36%) of us having friends or contacts we met online and with whom we regularly communicate. This is similar to the global average of 37%, but clearly the most gregarious online users live in China, where 75% having met a friend or contact online say they are still in contact with their new friend.

Australians who chat to people online have 23 contacts on their list that were sourced from online, compared to 18 globally, but interestingly, once Swedes decide to meet people online they do so at the highest rate, with an average of 39 contacts retained.

And, just for the record, around 6 in 10 Australians with online acquaintances have met them in person and over half have spoken to them on the phone, which again is in line with the global figure but behind nations like Germany (76%), Sweden (75%), France (75%), Denmark (74%), and Norway (73%) who meet up in person more readily.

Despite our active online lives, however, you’ll be pleased to know there’s hope for the more personal, with face-to-face remaining the preferred way of communicating with family members, partners, and friends, as well as other modes of communication elected in preference to online communication including voice calls from mobile and land-line phones and text messages.

A total of 27,522 people aged 18 to 55 years were interviewed online for the study in 16 countries - Australia, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States.

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