German twenty-somethings prefer Internet to partner

HANOVER (Reuters) - German twenty-somethings would ditch their spouses and do without a car in a heartbeat if they had to choose between having them or Internet access or a mobile phone, according to an industry study.

A couple hikes during sunset on the car free island of Hiddensee in the Baltic Sea near village Kloster December 31, 2007. REUTERS/Hannibal Hanschke

In a survey by German broadband association Bitkom around 84 percent of respondents aged 19-29 said they would rather do without their current partner or an automobile than forego their connection to the Web.

Living without a mobile phone was also unthinkable for 97 percent of those questioned in that age range.

Nevertheless, Bitkom president August-Wilhelm Scheer said on Monday in Hanover that did not mean that “the Web is an anonymous medium that leads to social indifference.”

One of the main themes at this year’s annual tech trade fair CeBit in Hanover is what the organizers have dubbed “Webciety,” short for WorldWideWeb society.

Bitkom said 1,000 people had taken part in the survey, and one in two people said they had made new friends thanks to chat forums and Internet communities. Around 8 percent said they had found a new partner thanks to online relations.

“The Web creates real relationships and does not result in autism and dehumanization,” said Scheer, who admitted he gets nervous when he does not have Internet access while on vacation.

Still, Scheer said, there was a digital divide in Germany that needed to be bridged.

“There’s a gap and it’s not with 30-year-olds or 40-year-olds it’s with those 50 years of age and above,” Scheer said.

The way people in their forties and those in their twenties used the Web did not differ much, Scheer said, but the difference to someone in their mid-fifties was significant.

“One of the main challenges in society today is to ensure that all age groups are up to par when it comes to the Internet,” Scheer said.

Reporting by Nicola Leske, editing by Paul Casciato