Seeking Solace in the Internet

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Times sure are tough. With what seems like countless rounds of layoffs or pay cuts and mounting financial pressures and obligations, many individuals have turned to their family members, friends — and even a higher power — for comfort and direction. But recent research reveals that a majority of Americans are actually taking refuge in an unexpected ubiquitous source: the Internet.

There was a recent study that demonstrated Americans’ reliance on the Internet, particularly during these tough economic times. In fact, a CNN article talked about how the American public would sooner give up their cell phone connections and sever their television contracts than relinquish their ability to surf the World Wide Web.

There has been a dramatic rise in the number of individuals who previously couldn’t be classified as heavy Internet users who have now shown their attachment to it by investing in home broadband connections. What’s more, not even a significant rise in Internet service prices this year has stopped those who could be categorized as “low-income Americans” from obtaining or at least maintaining their connections, as the survey showed a 40 percent rise in Internet use among that demographic.

Though this may seem a bit surprising, consider the diverse range of Internet uses that various individuals could tap into.

While more than half of all adults in the United States have been affected in some way by the economic downturn, approximately 69 percent have resorted to scouring the Internet not only to saturate their minds with the latest news and information surrounding the recession, but also for guidance to help them navigate through financially unpredictable times, according to an Agence France Presse article.

The report — titled “The Internet and the Recession” and conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project — brought to light some of the musings that lie behind the typical American psyche.

What appears to be foremost in people’s minds is the need to combine some solid research on the recession — including what factors caused it and what policies are being implemented to counter it — with some practical know-how on how to potentially power through the recession relatively unscathed.

For example, unprecedented unemployment rates in the United States have resulted in more than 40 percent of Americans resorting to various Web sites in the hopes of finding new jobs — or, in some cases, ways to improve or hone their skill sets to enable them to be stronger candidates for prospective jobs.

Some even chose to go online to seek advice on how to make some additional income. One way, though not at all groundbreaking, is still particularly ingenious in my opinion: using sites such as eBay or Craigslist to essentially sell or auction off personal or household items to earn a few extra bucks.

Many are exercising caution by using the Internet to brush up on a variety of cost-saving techniques, such as spending time finding coupons or properly researching the best deals before purchasing an item.

I imagine this would be a good time to go online to teach ourselves about personal finances and learn how to make better investments, as well.

As the survey pointed out, about one-fourth of individuals in the United States are consulting the Web to see what experts have to say about protecting one’s savings and investments, while a lesser number are seeking advice on taking out loans. Also, as unfortunate as it is, a small percentage of users have been forced to learn how to file for bankruptcy on the Web.

Moreover, the use of blogs, as well as the formation of various online communities on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter, has served as a forum for individuals to either express their opinions on or rant and rave about the countless effects of the recession.

Let’s face it: At the end of the day, the myriad benefits and opportunities that the Internet provides — if only to serve as an escape from some of the troubling realities of life — in most cases seem to far outweigh the relatively small hit to the pocket we take each month.

dhartley@certmag.com

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Deanna Hartley

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