Hobbyists Online: The great majority of online Americans now use the internet to pursue their leisure-time interests

Source Organization: Pew Research Center

Author: Maggie Griffith, Research Associate, and Susannah Fox, Associate Director, Pew Internet and American Life Project

09/19/2007 - Sara Greenleaf had taken up genealogy after she inherited her grandmother's family history files. Thanks to the internet, instead of spending time in dusty archives, she has been able to gather evidence and make connections from her desktop, particularly since she has the good luck of unusual ancestral names. One day, while preparing a scrapbook on her Welsh ancestors, she typed her great-grandfather's name, Gouverneur Cadwalader, into a search engine and found a cameo portrait of her great-great-great-grandmother on a website based in New Zealand.1 She happened to be named Maria Charlotte Gouverneur Cadwalader.

Greenleaf is one of the respondents to a survey posted on the Pew Internet Project website that collected stories about how the internet has had an impact on people's hobbies and her experience is far from unique. The internet has become a hobbyist's playground. A telephone survey conducted in February-March 2007 found that fully 83% of online Americans say they have used the internet to seek information about their hobbies and 29% do so on a typical day. Looking for information about hobbies is among the most popular online activities, on par with shopping, surfing the web for fun, and getting news.

The internet's effect on hobbies can range from being an integral research tool for a genealogist, like Greenleaf, to being a connection and communication tool for collectors, to being the very source of a hobby's existence, as in the case of online gaming. Regardless of the internet's role in the hobby, its impact is clear.

Read the full report at the Pew Research Center Web site.

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