But a recent study of Internet users offers an interesting look at how we interact with the Internet today. Gomez.com and InterSurvey polled more than 4600 Netizens to find out just what effect the Internet is having on how they spend their time and money. So how do these results affect what we'll be doing in the future?
Expect a much tighter integration between the Web and TV, suggests Jill Frankle, a Gomez analyst. She predicts this will happen in the near future, pointing out that 46 per cent of the survey respondents indicate their TV viewing is down as a result of more time online.
People increasingly will be accessing the Net from their televisions, Frankle suggests. She looks at the AOL/Time Warner merger as just the tip of the iceberg.
Newspapers are losing out to the Net as well. Twenty-five per cent of the respondents say the Internet has decreased the amount of time they spend reading newspapers.
Frankle considers the Internet "a threat to traditional media such as newspapers and magazines", but many in the publishing industry question whether it's actually a threat or a major trend.
In a short time, the Internet has become a major news source for many people and is fast becoming a complement to other, "traditional" sources of news. As traditional media houses embark on megamergers with Internet companies, it seems that sooner rather than later online news will be as "traditional" as the morning paper or evening television news.
Eating into real-life playtime
The Internet is also changing work and social habits, the survey found. Twenty-six per cent of the respondents say the Internet has increased the amount of time they spend working at home. Another 10 per cent say the Internet has decreased the amount of time they spend with family and friends.
The Internet has both a positive and negative effect on our lifestyles, Frankle concludes.
"The Internet in some ways makes life easier, but in others, it is causing people to work more and in some cases spend less time with family and friends," she says.
The Internet has facilitated a great wave of telecommuting and home-based entrepreneurs who juggle kids on their laps while conducting business on the Web. People can now work from home 24 hours a day, seven days a week, making them significantly more productive. But working constantly can also cut them off from family and friends.
Just as TV and the telephone did, the Internet is shifting the way we conduct business, buy and sell products, and run our personal lives, Frankle suggests. And brace for more, she adds: retailers, media conglomerates, and others are just waking up to the fact that the key to the future is maintaining a dual online/offline strategy.