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There's Magic in Modern Communications

There's a research outfit called the Pew Internet & American Life Project. It studies the technological revolution that has woven computers, cell phones, and hand-held electronic devices into the fabric of everyday life. Now the Pew folks have stepped back a bit to examine how people are coping with the array of modern communications options.

They surveyed exactly 4001 U.S. adults and, as you might expect, found every manner of technology user. Overall, roughly four in ten of the respondents described themselves as devotees of modern technology who thrill at each new gadget and upgrade and can't wait for the next one. Two in ten said they were moderate users. And the remaining four in ten said they have trouble coping with high tech or don't even want to try.

Pew assigned clever names to the various levels of techno-users. In the middle group of moderate users, for instance, are what Pew calls "lackluster veterans." These are folks who hopped onto the Internet a long time ago, have found it quite useful, but are by no means frothing at the mouth to get the hottest and latest new electronic toys.

Moderate users also include what Pew calls "indifferents." They have computers, decent access to the Internet, and cell phones, but make use of only a fraction of what these devices can do. For them, technology is a tool and nothing more. Fancy new capabilities complicate their lives and aren't worth the trouble.

Among the truly disenchanted are what Pew calls the "connected but hassled" crowd. They kept on investing in wondrous technology improvements, but found the blizzard of options too overwhelming to keep up with.

The Pew study found that a lot of Americans are using words like "overload" and "fatigue" to describe their feelings about computers and cell phones and the like. The information revolution rolls on, but for many, it seems, the thrill is gone.