Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Internet or Sex? Your Choice.

Once again, we have a survey in which the results are touted to reveal a heck of a lot more than they actually do. Yes. Shocking, I know. I'm sure what will (or will not) be even more shocking to you is how the data from the results was not exactly used in the most straightforward and accurate manner.

Here's the scoop: The guys over at chip maker Intel got together with Harris Interactive (they do polls and surveys) to try and show how important the Internet and computers and using computers in general are to the average American. OK, that's fine, I suppose, but it seems kind of like an odd thing to want to know. Actually, maybe it's that it kind of seems like an odd thing if you don't know or don't have some pretty decent idea of how important those things are to Americans. (Americans love computers. Americans love the Internet. Survey over. Case closed. When's lunch?) If you were wondering about those in other countries or Aborigine tribes or something like that, I could more easily justify your curiosity. I'd still think it's strange, but I doubt that you'd rate a blog post over it. But if you don't know the extent to which Americans like their Internet, well then, you're one of the few people on the planet who has never heard of a little thing we like to call porn. (Because from what I can tell, if there's something that Americans like more than the Internet, it's the porn found on the Internet.)

But here's where it just gets silly. In order to try to figure out how important something is, you need to rank it or you need to compare it to something else. The Harris Interactive folks (I'm assuming it was their doing. After all, it's what they do.) decided that the best way to gage the importance of the Internet to Americans would be to compare it to having sex. (Oh. Good Lord...)

According to the fit to print piece over there in the New York Times the Harris poll results showed that "...46 percent of women and 30 percent of men would opt to forgo sex for two weeks rather than give up access to their precious Internet for the same period." Uh-huh. Is it that all you've got for me?

Of course not. Yes, there's more! The article stated that "...those surveyed said access to the Internet ranked highest among the discretionary spending items they could not live without. Cable television, dining out, shopping for clothes and gym memberships followed in declining importance." And these folks didn't know any of that or couldn't figure it out without a survey? Gym memberships? You're going to compare my Internet usage with my gym membership usage? Um, OK. Here goes. Internet usage: All the time. Gym usage: Not a snowball's chance in hell. Er, I mean, rarely. And I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess, just guess that I wasn't the only one who answered that way.

But back to the sex part (because really, why wouldn't you want to go back to that? It's fab-ulous!). Do they not see the problem with their question and how it was posed/asked? (Obviously not, if they still went ahead and asked the damn thing, I suppose.) Now, they didn't say how old the people were in this study, only that they were "adults". Now, be honest here! How often, really do the majority of people actually have sex each week? According to the Kinsey Institute, 18-29 year olds have sex about twice a week. And they were being asked about a two week time period?

Well, of course they said that they'd rather give up the sex than the Internet for two weeks! If you go with the Kinsey Institute's findings, that's four times. Yeah, I'm going to have to agree with the folks in the survey. If I have two weeks of which to refrain from sex in order to use the Internet (what am I? Some sort of Rhesus monkey?) I can do without having sex four times! (I wouldn't think that I could, but it's been known to happen!) That's how I'd look at it. Besides, it's not like just because you're not having sex it means that you also have to be Master of your Domain. You can do that in lieu of sex. You cannot do that in lieu of the Internet (as far as I know. There have been a lot of things that have happened that way, but Internet substitution is not one of them!).

I mean, do the folks at Intel and Harris Interactive think that real people in real life are living their lives just like the porn people in Internet life? They must. Hey, Intel and Harris guys! When was the last time you ordered a pizza and the hot, young, buxom blonde who delivered it wanted to have sex with you? Hey, Intel and Harris women! When was the last time you got pulled over for speeding and Sergeant Sagittarius came up to your window with his shirt unbuttoned and his firm, hard abs were tanned and glistening with sweat under the hot summer sun? Oh, that's right. For both of those scenarios, the answer is NEVER!

The Times article even says that "Along similar lines, 61 percent of the women surveyed said they would rather go without TV for two weeks than lose access to the Internet for one week." And why would that be? For the same reason. There isn't crap on TV. So what the hell do I care if I go without it for two weeks? Ooh! And guess what?? If I miss a show that I had wanted to watch on TV, I can watch it on the Internet. That same Internet which I opted for instead of having TV! (They could have reported that maneuver as "Findings show that Internet users are a sneaky, crafty bunch, as they thwarted our survey and watched TV anyway!")

But see, those are all my interpretations of the data. And from my interpretations, one could draw the conclusion that I do not work for Intel. You can really draw that conclusion when you compare my interpretations to those of Intel, as they said that, “The survey revealed that 65 percent of adults feel they cannot live without Internet access, and even more — 71 percent — responded that it is important or very important to have Internet-enabled devices, such as laptops, netbooks and mobile Internet devices that can provide them with real-time updates on important issues including the state of the economy.” Wait. What?

THAT is what they got from that Harris Interactive poll? My God, why bother doing the poll at all? Why not just throw darts at a board or a donkey (not a real one. I'm thinking a paper one. Probably on that same board you were throwing the darts at.) with different phrases and numbers on it and use those results? You're going to have results that will seem rather extrapolated, but I'm failing to see how that would be any different than what Intel already does! (By the way, just an aside here: I like how they define "Internet-enabled devices" as being "laptops, netbooks and mobile Internet devices". Well, no duh, Intel. Thanks for that.)

So, yes, it's probably true that a whole lot of women would be perfectly OK with giving up sex or TV for a couple of weeks rather than giving up the Internet for those same couple of weeks. But you can't automatically chalk it up to the Internet being better than sex. (Don't get me wrong, sometimes it is. I mean, that's not my experience, but from what I've heard. I hear things.) You'd think that companies that do these polls would know that and you'd think that companies that pay for polls like this would want to know that. But apparently, neither one of those is the case. No, apparently, whatever the results are will be good enough for someone, regardless of how accurate they are. (Does Intel make their chips the same way that they interpret data? Let's hope not, shall we?)

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