We had an overwhelming response to data insights we recently published about how frequently (or, as it turns out, not so frequently) consumers un-plug from their personal electronic devices.

The frequency question that we ran on our intelligent real-time polling and insights platform allowed for the 8,700+ respondents to define for themselves what “un-plugged” meant in terms of duration. The question’s exact wording was: How often do you ‘un-plug’ from ALL personal technology? (mobile phones, tablets, laptops/computers, e-readers, TV, audio players, etc.)

Turns out, 43% of consumers said they “Never” un-plug from such devices, and 17% said they do so only a few times a year. So… 60% of consumers are near-constantly connected to something electronic. (Read the full part one “Un-plugged” report here.)

Because of the large-scale interest in this topic – our data was covered by dozens of sites, ranging from The Wall Street Journal, eMarketer, and Business Insider to Automotive Mobile Solutions and Wilshire Axon Sports to even Lake Tahoe News and DigitalTV Europe – we wanted to gather more specific information about the length of time consumers use to define un-plugging.

We launched a second question to our platform:

When you do decide to “un-plug” from your personal technology devices (smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc.), how long do you un-plug?

Data collection ran from August 11 to August 20, 2014 as once again, anonymous, opt-in respondents answered the question on hundreds of online media sites. We focused on the respondents that were based in the United States. Those U.S.-based 10,639 responses were weighted for U.S. census representativeness for gender and age, 13 years and older (but frankly, the response distribution did not change much at all when the data remained unweighted).

Consumer behavior - unplugging from personal technology


Top-Line Results:

  • Now that we are specifically defining durations to quantify “un-plugging,” 24% of consumers say they never un-plug. However, another 19% say they un-plug for only an hour or two – which one could argue falls into the category of “that doesn’t count!” These two numbers combine to 43% of respondents who don’t un-plug, which is identical to the “Never” un-plug data from our original question.
  • 33% of consumers say that when they un-plug, it’s for half a day to a full day.
  • 14% are more disconnected electronically – they can go a couple of days to more than a week un-plugged.
  • 10% of consumers say they don’t own such personal electronic devices.

2,274 respondents answered both this recent “how long” un-plugged question and the original “how often” question, so what did we learn by comparing them?

  • Those who un-plug only a few times a year give themselves a break when they do: most tend to do so for half a day to a full day.
  • Most of those who said their un-plugging frequency is on a daily basis do so for at least half a day, but they are more likely than others to stay un-plugged longer, for a couple days and even more than a week.


Now let’s data-dive to see what insights we can unearth based on the length of the un-plug:

  • Age: It’s interesting to see once again, age is not much of a factor. From ages 13-44, we see that 27-31% of respondents say they never un-plug. It’s not until we reach 45+ year-olds that we see a drop, with 18-22% of these older adults saying “I never un-plug.” Younger respondents (ages 13-24) are more likely to say they un-plug for an hour or two. The rest of response distribution by age among the answer options are non-differentiated.
  • Gender: There are no gender differences regarding how long people un-plug.
  • Income: Those making over $150,000 per year are somewhat more likely to say they never un-plug, but otherwise, income is not a factor either.
  • Geography: The eastern half of the U.S. and the western states of California, Nevada, and Arizona are more wired –respondents from those states are more likely to say “I never un-plug.”

Social Media and Tech Usage

Let’s look beyond the demographics to other attributes of these respondents, based on other CivicScience questions they’ve answered previously. In the chart below, we compare those combined 43% of respondents who say they never un-plug or do so only for an hour or two to those who can un-plug for longer periods, based on their use of tech devices or social media sites:

How long do consumers unplug by tech device and social media use?

In general, those who can’t really un-plug are much more likely to be avid users of tech devices and social sites – and those who can un-plug for longer periods are less likely to use those products. Tablet computers, however, shows little change among any of the segments, while smart-phone usage certainly does. The data show quite a large difference in those who describe themselves as being very active on Twitter – they are 1.5X more likely to stay plugged in vs. take a break for a day or longer.

We also looked at their behaviors with second screen devices, specifically, when they are watching TV, finding out what they are doing with their personal digital devices. Those who never un-plug for any duration also are much more likely to be “double connecting.” When they are watching TV, 56% of them are viewing apps, games, or content on their portable device, interacting on social media, or checking email or texting – and another 6% are watching the TV content on such a device.

It seems that once we are “wired in,” it’s harder to resist disconnecting.

Is Being Connected Good for Us?

Because our methodology cycles through any of thousands of questions per day, our respondents can’t predict what questions will be presented to them through our publishers’ sites. This “randomness” helps us connect the dots on attributes that they might not expect us to connect… such as:

Is being too connected correlated with healthiness factors? Let’s examine the data:

  • Fewer of those who say “I never un-plug” rate themselves as being very healthy (29%) compared to those who un-plug for at least a day (39%, and it goes up to 48% among the week or longer respondents).
  • The always-plugged-in exercise less often: 31% say they exercise several times a week or more, compared to 46% who disconnect for a full day.
  • Those who never un-plug are somewhat more likely (in a self-reporting question) to believe they are overweight than others, with 64% admitting they are vs. 57% of those who un-plug for a couple of days.
  • However, the most connected in general have fewer smokers among them. Only 20% say they smoke every day or some days, compared to 27% who un-plug for a week or longer.

There are many other things we can look at with regards to levels of plugged-in-ness, such as brands favored more by the always-connected vs. the lesser-connected, other media consumption habits, economic sentiments, and more. Please contact us to tell us if you’re interested in “plugging in” to our InsightStore™ platform to see what you can find as your browse through our data …

But, may I suggest we all set aside some time for a nice hike on a nature trail, sans phone?