One in four people spend more time e-mailing or on mobile phones than talking face to face, according to a report from market researcher Ipsos Mori, sponsored by BT.
The 21st Century Life Index report reveals changes in British social and workplace behaviour and attitudes as people have become more and more digitally connected over the past 10 years.
The researchers found people are more interested in matters that improve their personal and family lives. "Business communications are of lesser concern than social, environmental or family issues," they said.
The report's headline findings are:
• People are spending much more time online, but would rather give up access to the net than their (mobile) telephone.
• More than half have bought something online in the past three months, and one-third have read a product review online.
• Most want the technology to enable them to spend more time with their family and less time working.
• Social networking online is increasingly important, especially among 16- to 35-year-olds.
• Most people are sceptical of what they read on the net. They think the web has given more power to companies and businesses as well as traditional media.
• Some are starting to use the net to vote, to petition politicians, and to deal with government.
• Many could do some work at home but don't, fearing it may cost them promotion.
The report shows new social patterns emerging. Most people think it is unacceptable to read someone else's email or text messages without permission, but seven out of 10 think it is within bounds to test a partner's loyalty via an online social networking site.
Email (72%) and texting (20%) remain the killer apps. Take-up of services such as text alerts, video calling on mobiles, and interactive digital TV is low and slow, even though 45% of people have a digital TV - just 2% less than those who have a PC or laptop.
The authors say 68% now prefer face-to-face contact, compared with 51% in 1998. The telephone is less popular as the primary communications medium, halving from 36% in 1998 to 18% now. Email has risen from 1% to 7%.
Ipsos Mori interviewed more than 2,600 people, including 618 16 to 35-year-olds, in May.