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Internet usage by Americans shifting from quantity to quality, becoming more commonplace

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NEW YORK (AP) _ As Americans gain online experience, the nature of their Internet usage is shifting from quantity to quality.

A study released Sunday found that as the Internet becomes less of a novelty, veterans spend less time online and e-mail their friends and family less often. But they use their online time to do more tasks and are more likely than newcomers to share worries or seek advice.

``People get more serious,'' said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet & American Life Project, which conducted the study. ``It's a story about how the Internet is working its way into everyday rhythms of life.''

Suggesting people are becoming less dazzled by the Internet, 12 percent of people who e-mail relatives did so every day in March 2001, compared with 21 percent a year earlier.

In March 2000, 88 percent of Americans who e-mail family members considered e-mail ``very'' or ``somewhat'' useful for keeping up with relatives. When respondents were contacted again a year later, only 79 percent thought so.

Subject matter is becoming more serious. Forty-four percent in 2001 sometimes raised issues they were worried or upset about, up from 37 percent in 2000. Fifty-six percent e-mailed a relative seeking advice, up from 45 percent.

The study found similar patterns with e-mail to friends.

Users in 2001 spent 83 minutes online during a typical session, down from 90 minutes a year earlier.

But they made better use of their time, buying stocks, making travel reservations and finding jobs online as they gain experience.

The study was initially based on a random telephone survey of 3,533 people in March 2000. Researchers attempted to reach everyone a year earlier and succeeded in completing 1,501 follow-up interviews. Comparisons were based on the cases where interviews were conducted both years.

The survey has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points, with larger margins for subgroups such as Internet users.

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