How connected are you?

Charting the huge increase in the amount of time spent online

Have you been virtually connected to the world today?

Many Europeans, and even more Americans, are scrapping newspapers and logging online to catch up on the latest headlines. In the last two years, according to a survey by Juniper Research, the time Europeans spend online has increased from two to four hours per week. The time Americans spend online each week is more than triple this number- they now spend, on average, 14 hours a week online.

In the United Kingdom, from 2004 to 2005, there was a whopping 63 percent increase in the number of households with broadband internet access. Now nine million people are surfing the web using their broadband internet connections- and that number is rising rapidly.

Perhaps it is not a surprise that it's young people who are driving these trends. Already 27 percent of UK citizens between the ages of 16 and 24,surveyed in a 2006 Ofcom Communications Market Report, said they read newspapers less as a consequence of online news. These same young people are also slowly turning away from their television sets and instead focusing on their computer screens, spending one less hour per week watching television per day than the average 2006 viewer.

But what, exactly, are they doing?

Networking, of course. More than 70 percent of these 16 to 24-year-old users are using social networking websites and 37 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds have contributed to a blog or message board. Young people from 15 to 24 are twice as likely to consume video and music content online. Starting at increasingly earlier ages, the younger generations are immersing themselves in instant communication, finding these interactions to be much more stimulating than holding a printed document or even tuning their radios to popular stations.

If you want to see how much today's youth are connecting, just take a walk through a university campus. Any student who isn't surrounded by a group of friends is likely to either be talking on their mobile phone or jamming to their iPod, oblivious to the rest of the world. And now that they can download podcasts and videos online to watch on their iPods, it's becoming even easier to bypass television and radio completely.

In the U.S., there have been debates in many elementary and middle schools about what to do about iPods in the classroom. Some schools have banned the contraptions, but others are embracing them as a new teaching tool. One solution to the iPod problem, promoted by Apple itself, has been to use them as educational tools. Requiring every student to bring their science project to class on a sleek iPod might just be a future norm.

So, if the upcoming generations are so connected, what does this mean for the future of print newspapers, non-digital radio stations and basic television stations?

Well, they're not going under any time soon but are going to have to adapt to a population that likes to be instantly entertained and thrives on being connected. Newspaper sales are already down, and those that are not developing attractive new websites are lagging behind the times. It's become all about the package. News websites with the most hits effectively deliver the entire package- complete with audio, video and print, satisfying as many senses as possible at one time.

These changes don't mean that the death of print is near. Back when cable television entered the market in the 1990s, the print news sources faced similar problems. But they're still alive. As the Internet infiltrates society, people might not buy as many traditional newspapers, but they'll keep going providing they adapt.

The media will always find its way to you, and you will always connect somehow to the media. It's just the way it goes. Don't believe me? You're connecting right now.

Hana Bieliauskas is a junior at Ohio University majoring in magazine journalism. She is currently studying in London.
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Leader: The unresolved Eurozone crisis

The continent that once aspired to be a rival superpower to the US is now a byword for decline, and ethnic nationalism and right-wing populism are thriving.

The eurozone crisis was never resolved. It was merely conveniently forgotten. The vote for Brexit, the terrible war in Syria and Donald Trump’s election as US president all distracted from the single currency’s woes. Yet its contradictions endure, a permanent threat to continental European stability and the future cohesion of the European Union.

The resignation of the Italian prime minister Matteo Renzi, following defeat in a constitutional referendum on 4 December, was the moment at which some believed that Europe would be overwhelmed. Among the champions of the No campaign were the anti-euro Five Star Movement (which has led in some recent opinion polls) and the separatist Lega Nord. Opponents of the EU, such as Nigel Farage, hailed the result as a rejection of the single currency.

An Italian exit, if not unthinkable, is far from inevitable, however. The No campaign comprised not only Eurosceptics but pro-Europeans such as the former prime minister Mario Monti and members of Mr Renzi’s liberal-centrist Democratic Party. Few voters treated the referendum as a judgement on the monetary union.

To achieve withdrawal from the euro, the populist Five Star Movement would need first to form a government (no easy task under Italy’s complex multiparty system), then amend the constitution to allow a public vote on Italy’s membership of the currency. Opinion polls continue to show a majority opposed to the return of the lira.

But Europe faces far more immediate dangers. Italy’s fragile banking system has been imperilled by the referendum result and the accompanying fall in investor confidence. In the absence of state aid, the Banca Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the world’s oldest bank, could soon face ruin. Italy’s national debt stands at 132 per cent of GDP, severely limiting its firepower, and its financial sector has amassed $360bn of bad loans. The risk is of a new financial crisis that spreads across the eurozone.

EU leaders’ record to date does not encourage optimism. Seven years after the Greek crisis began, the German government is continuing to advocate the failed path of austerity. On 4 December, Germany’s finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, declared that Greece must choose between unpopular “structural reforms” (a euphemism for austerity) or withdrawal from the euro. He insisted that debt relief “would not help” the immiserated country.

Yet the argument that austerity is unsustainable is now heard far beyond the Syriza government. The International Monetary Fund is among those that have demanded “unconditional” debt relief. Under the current bailout terms, Greece’s interest payments on its debt (roughly €330bn) will continually rise, consuming 60 per cent of its budget by 2060. The IMF has rightly proposed an extended repayment period and a fixed interest rate of 1.5 per cent. Faced with German intransigence, it is refusing to provide further funding.

Ever since the European Central Bank president, Mario Draghi, declared in 2012 that he was prepared to do “whatever it takes” to preserve the single currency, EU member states have relied on monetary policy to contain the crisis. This complacent approach could unravel. From the euro’s inception, economists have warned of the dangers of a monetary union that is unmatched by fiscal and political union. The UK, partly for these reasons, wisely rejected membership, but other states have been condemned to stagnation. As Felix Martin writes on page 15, “Italy today is worse off than it was not just in 2007, but in 1997. National output per head has stagnated for 20 years – an astonishing . . . statistic.”

Germany’s refusal to support demand (having benefited from a fixed exchange rate) undermined the principles of European solidarity and shared prosperity. German unemployment has fallen to 4.1 per cent, the lowest level since 1981, but joblessness is at 23.4 per cent in Greece, 19 per cent in Spain and 11.6 per cent in Italy. The youngest have suffered most. Youth unemployment is 46.5 per cent in Greece, 42.6 per cent in Spain and 36.4 per cent in Italy. No social model should tolerate such waste.

“If the euro fails, then Europe fails,” the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has often asserted. Yet it does not follow that Europe will succeed if the euro survives. The continent that once aspired to be a rival superpower to the US is now a byword for decline, and ethnic nationalism and right-wing populism are thriving. In these circumstances, the surprise has been not voters’ intemperance, but their patience.

This article first appeared in the 08 December 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Brexit to Trump