Learning to Live With Spam
Pew research finds users have gotten smarter about spam and are learning to deal with it, in more ways than one.
One reason users are less bothered by it is they are getting better at blocking spam to begin with. The survey of 2,200 American adults found that 71 percent of email users use some kind of filters to block spam.
"People are learning how to deal with spam, and that sense of control means theyre less bothered by it," said Deborah Fallows, senior research fellow at Pew in, ironically enough, an e-mailed statement to internetnews.com.
That doesn't necessarily mean people are blasé about spam. The survey also found that 55 percent of email users say they have lost trust in email because of spam. But they aren't ceasing their use of it. E-mail is in decline not because of spam but because of a generational shift.
Pew found that there is indeed more spam hitting people; 37 percent of respondents said spam had increased in their personal email accounts over the past year, and 29 percent of work email users said spam had increased at work. Only ten percent reported less spam in the past year.
But they all seem to simply accept it. When Pew first began tracking users' attitudes toward spam in June 2003, 25 percent said it was a big problem. Now, only 18 percent say it's a problem. Even more unusual? College educated respondents were more bothered than non-college educated respondents.
Two-thirds of college graduate Internet users are annoyed by spam, compared with 45 percent of those with less education. Fallows thinks that's because those with degrees tend to work desk jobs and thus are getting hit with spam at home and at work, while the non-degreed workers aren't as likely to be dealing with e-mail at work.
Another reason spam bothers people less is the amount of pornographic spam has dropped considerably. This year, 52 percent of respondents reported having received pornographic spam, down from 63 percent two years ago and 71 percent three years ago. Also, significantly fewer women than men say they received spam with adult content (46 percent vs. 58 percent).
At least people are learning their lesson. Pew found that 81 percent do not open attachments, the most common method for delivering viruses, spyware, Trojans and other malicious software, unless they know the attached file is safe.