Wi-Fi is social krazyglue, says report

A survey carried out by the Wi-Fi Alliance shows the majority of 18-to-29 year-old Americans, Chinese Japanese and Koreans increasingly rely on Wi-Fi to keep in touch with friends and family.

Calling on a sample of 1,000 American, and 400 Chinese, Japanese and Korean "millenials" (by definition, the forthcoming generation of workers who are allegedly skilled in IT and on whose shoulders rests the future of modern civilization), the Wi-Fi Alliance has drawn up some interesting figures.

In Wi-Fi Alliance's marketing language, young adults "find it difficult to keep up with relationships without Wi-Fi access", with 64 per cent of US respondents and over 89 per cent of Chinese respondents agreeing with the statement.

Some 44 per cent of Americans and 82 per cent of Chinese agreed this also applied to their family relations. Secondly, the report states, when faced with the question whether, "Wi-Fi-enabled digital devices are now more central to life than television", two-thirds of American respondents and four-fifths of Chinese are in agreement.

There's more.

Some 87 per cent of Americans and 74 per cent of Chinese respondents classify Wi-Fi access in schools and universities as a necessity. Of course it is, you need to hit on that girl who not only looks good, but can also give you a leg-up in that philosophy class you signed up for.

Caffeine also takes a back seat to Wi-Fi, with 75 per cent of Americans, 64 per cent of Koreans and 87 per cent of Chinese replying they would definitely be grumpier if they were left without Wi-Fi access for a week.

The report trumpets the supremacy of Wi-Fi over all things social and digital, naturally, without giving a second thought to the exact nature of the replies. As Kurt Scherf, VP and principal analyst at Parks Associates stated: "Interactive digital devices are fundamental to how millennials spend their time and connect with family and friends, and have become more important than older, more passive forms of entertainment like television." It's "interactive digital devices" that have surpassed TV, not Wi-Fi.

We have no doubt that digital devices capable of hooking up directly or indirectly to the Internet, whether it be by proximity to a Wi-Fi hotspot, by 3G or via a cabled connection, is changing the way people interact and how they relate to each other. You don't need a study to get there. You do need a study, however, to validate your own existence in a rather underhanded way.

Without underplaying the value of Wi-Fi, it is a fact that this particular technology is a means to an end (connecting to a network), which is in itself another means to an end (accessing the Internet). Without it you would actually have to sit somewhere else other than your comfy couch, somewhere you'd actually use cables. However, without Internet access the respondents wouldn't be able to interact at all with their remote friends, family and virtual boy-/girlfriends. Not updating your Facebook status at least 20 times a day is definitely anti-social.

The research conducted by Wakefield Research, at the behest of the Wi-Fi Alliance, does bring to light not just the dependence on wireless technology, but the need to take your high-tech gear with you everywhere you go.

In the end, it does beg the question whether the poll asked: "Do you know the difference between a Wi-Fi-enabled device and a device with internet access?" Or: "What percentage of your relations are exclusive to Facebook?", and whether they were left out for concern that it may reflect another reality: one where people cannot tell their elbows from their arses and are out of touch with the world.