A new kind of personal computing

Computers are now an integral part of our lives – many of us would be lost without them. And to some heavy users, the PC is becoming as important as friends and family

Computers have become such a significant part of everyday life in the UK that many PC users are developing one-to-one relationships with their machines, according to research from MORI. The research also shows that people admit they feel strongly attached to their computers and react to them as if they had “personalities” of their own.

The study shows that one in five computer users over the age of 17 would feel lost without their computer. A quarter of respondents admit to talking to their computers often, and three in ten adults say they feel extremely fond of their machine.

But it seems that our adoration of computers does not stop there. A quarter of adults like to talk about their PCs to colleagues, friends and family, with men twice as likely to do so as women. And this is a love affair that looks set to continue – the study reveals that 34 per cent of the adult population feel that computers will be as important to people as their family and friends by 2020.

Further analysis of the MORI research reveals five distinct groups of adult computer users, who relate to their computers in very different ways. Two groups – Screen Grabbers and Keystrokers – have very positive relationships with their PC’s, while Shutdowns and Mainframers have fairly impersonal attitudes. Shifters, on the other hand, have more problematic relations with their computers.

While Screen Grabbers, who make up 18 per cent of respondents, have a positive relationship with their computer, it is still not as close as their relationships with other people. The majority of Screen Grabbers think of their computer as a trusted friend and tend to feel extremely fond of it – to the point where a majority of them would feel lost without it. Screen Grabbers tend to be high-frequency computer users, particularly for work purposes, and are likely to be men in the AB social grade.

Keystrokers have an even closer relationship with their computers, to the extent that this has a major impact on their other relationships. Seventeen per cent of respondents fall into this group. They are highly likely to think of their computer as a trusted friend, are extremely fond of it, and would certainly feel lost without it.

Keystrokers are the only group likely to admit that they sometimes enjoy spending time with their computer more than with their partner and friends. They tend to take their frustration with their computer’s behaviour out on other people and are likely to feel jealously possessive of it.

Computers form an essential part of Keystrokers’ social network, as they are more likely than average to use a computer to make new friends and to keep in touch with family and existing friends. This group has a higher proportion of 17- to 34-year-olds than do any of the others. Keystrokers are also particularly likely to fall into the C2DE social category.

The Shutdown group is the largest, accounting for 31 per cent of respondents. Shutdowns reject all suggestions of a relationship with their computer: they are likely to disagree that they have feelings for their computer at all. They tend to be more experienced PC users – a majority of them have been using computers for over 15 years. They are also likely to use their computer frequently for work. A high proportion of Shutdowns are in the 35- to 54-year-old age range.

Mainframers, like Shutdowns, do not currently enjoy a close relationship with their computer. However, they do tend to think the importance of people’s relations with computers will increase in future. While members of this group, which comprises 18 per cent of respondents, have impersonal relationships with their computers – and would not feel particularly lost without them – neither do they feel nervous of computers.

The majority of Mainframers agree that by 2020 computers will be as important to people as their friends and family. Mainframers have an older-than-average age profile and are also more likely to be in the C1 social grade.

The final group, the Shifters, have more difficult relationships with computers. Members of this group tend to think that their computer is sometimes trying to make their life difficult, and they are more likely than average to take their frustration with their computer out on other people.

Unsurprisingly, the majority of Shifters feel nervous of their computer. Members of this group are not likely to think of their computer as a trusted friend, and the majority deny being fond of their machine. Shifters tend to be low-frequency users of computers, particularly for leisure purposes. They are slightly more likely to be women, with a high proportion being over 55 years old.

Computers are now a part of everyday life and, while some people are extremely enthusiastic about them, it seems that others need to make their peace with their PCs before they will be able to accept the benefits computers bring to their lives.

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