Mainstream media is constantly filled with dire predictions of a world where peoples’ minds have been turned to mush because of over-consumption of digital content. The discussion mirrors that of a generation or two ago about the perils of TV viewing and, going back further, the end of society that widespread radio-listening can create.

Every generation has a tendency, it seems, of seeing new technological developments as hugely damaging to the fabric of society, time has shown that their prognostications, at least in the past, haven’t been borne out.

But when it comes to the impacts of the internet and widespread social media usage, maybe there is a difference. While the rise of television had some impacts for sure (television dinners, anyone) it didn’t fundamentally stop the way individuals interacted with each other and the world at large. Clearly, that is changing, if my two teenagers are anything to go by, the idea of sitting in one’s room and not going out, preferring to communicate solely on a remote basis, is the new norm.

And, of course, this trend to engaging in a primarily digital way has huge impacts on society. Many suggest that the increasing prevalence of mental health issues are, at least in part, a result of this always-on society in which social media enables an opinion or photo to disseminate at lightning speed.

And so it is interesting to look at some empirical data that looks at just how much time we’re all spending on our devices and how digital channels have become the default way we communicate. Adobe, a vendor who is deeply interested in how consumers interact with digital content and helping their customers maximize the results of that interaction, conducted a survey to create some empirical data. Ironically the survey highlighted the inverse relationship between how much consumers are sharing and viewing (a lot) and their trust levels of content from each other, brands, and influencers (all-time lows)

The survey findings were taken from an admittedly small sample of some 1,011 US adult consumers that own at least one digital device. And the findings are:

  • On average people spend 1/3 of their day engaging with digital content (approaches 80% of the day for Gen-Z)
  • There is an increase in caution of sharing and viewing content in the last 5 years:
    • 47% of consumers trust content from family/friends/peers; 57% share they content from family/friends/peers
    • Less than 1/3 of teen respondents trust content from their own families and friends
    • Despite increased claims of fake news nowadays, consumers have the second highest level of trust in online news outlets (like CNN, New York Times, Washington Post) and the third highest level of trust in traditional broadcast networks (like NBC, CBS, ABC) at 29% and 27% respectively
  • Consumers reject poor experiences:
    • Consumers get most annoyed when brand content is too wordy/poorly written (44%), isn’t relevant (42%), is poorly designed (33%) and isn’t optimized for their device (29%).
    • 2/3 of consumers (or 66%) say encountering any of these annoying situations would prevent them from making a purchase.
  • Consumers aren’t only multi-tasking, they’re multi-screening:
    • More than half (55%) of consumers constantly or frequently use more than one device at a time; only 10% of all respondents admit to using 3 separate devices at a single time to engage with content online
    • Consumers have mixed emotions about multi-screening, with most consumers feeling productive (18%) or distracted (17%) when multi-screening
  • Throughout the purchase process, people engage on multiple channels:
    • To research a product, most consumers (48%) use the brand’s website, followed by checking out a product in store (40%).
    • Teens and millennial consumers were the least likely to check-out a product in store during the research phase (16% of teens and 28% of millennials).
    • Millennials most likely to use social networks during the research phase (34%), while teens and Gen X were equally likely to use social networks (both 21%). 


My synopsis is that despite no one trusting digital content, everyone relies on it. The only conclusion I can draw is that humanity is deeply flawed. Sure, there is some data in here for brands who will no doubt focus on their user experiences (and this is, obviously, where Adobe comes in) but beyond that, there are some questions that we, as a society, need to be asking. But, alas, we won’t….

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

1 Comment
  • Very interesting Ben. From also having teenage and now beyond sons, I can so relate to this article. (Says he with 3 devices currently open!). I also agree with and feel frustratingly hopeless at your conclusion…

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