Switch on to switch off, Virgin Media research claims

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Thumbnail image for NeoNest_A4.jpgA new report commissioned by Virgin Media and carried out by The Future Laboratory claims that two thirds of the UK loves being connected at all times and feels more relaxed when connected than when not.

These people have even been given a media friendly name: ‘SOSOs’ – those who switch on to switch off. Apparently SOSO behaviour is not only reflected in a love of being connected to technology but also by anxiety caused by the implications of not being connected.

Over a third (35 per cent) experienced anxiety when not able to use technology to stay in touch with their family, around a third (31 per cent) was most anxious about not being able to make money/work online and 27 per cent was most concerned with not being able to connect to friends. Anxiety is also apparent when technology can’t be called upon to provide advice, whether through online maps (25 per cent), dating (21 per cent) or shopping for the best deals (15 per cent).

Says psychologist Nik Simpson: “At any moment, an urgent email may ping into an inbox, a client may call, an old friend may get in touch via Facebook or a family member may want to get in touch. Therefore, to disconnect from technology may mean missing something we cannot afford to. Always being connected actually becomes increasingly essential for peace of mind, further reinforcing SOSO values.”

The report also discovered a large percentage of stay-at-home parents are SOSOs. Almost half (48 per cent) find being connected at all times relaxing, leading to the rise of what is defined as the ‘Neo-Nest.’ As well as fulfilling their role as parents, raising children and running the home, these SOSOs are making themselves heard far beyond the front door. With 85 per cent of stay-at-home parents continually connected to broadband in the home, over one in seven (13 per cent) accesses online parenting forums, seeking and giving advice to others in similar situations.

Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of online parenting network Netmums, is not surprised by the increasing amount of time stay-at-home parents are spending online. “Particularly for new mums, you are confined to the house for quite long periods, and it really is a link to the outside world.”

When not surfing online, stay-at-home parents are the most likely group to be surfing channels; just under half (49 per cent) continually have digital television switched on. They are also the most frequent users of mobile phones (62 per cent), perhaps justified by a desire to socialise with other parents when constrained by the demands of domesticity.

The SOSO’s relationship with the digital age is also a close one. Whereas the traditional view of technology has been something that should be rationed, SOSOs do not share this view claims the Virgin Media survey. Indeed, around a third of the population in the UK said that they did not feel guilty about always being connected, with 31 per cent of 18-24-year-olds, 29 per cent of 25-34s, 33 per cent of 35-44s, 31 per cent of 45-54s and 31 per cent of 55-64s rejecting traditional notions of appropriate technological use.

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