Since 1995, Mary Meeker, founder of Bond Capital and former partner at Kleiner Perkins, has issued her much anticipated Internet Trends report, otherwise known as the only 300+ slide deck that everybody in Silicon Valley will actually read. The 2019 installment came Tuesday at the Vox/Recode conference in Scottsdale. For the tech world, it’s like when you’re 8 years old and a new Harry Potter comes out.
And this year’s version does not disappoint. The report is wide-ranging, but what jumped out for me weren’t the slides showing the growth of various sectors of the tech world (though there are plenty). It was Meeker’s point about our growing desire, and ability, to take control of our relationship with technology.
This section is entitled “INTERNET USAGE =THERE ARE CONCERNS…THERE IS GOODNESS” (as a Greek, I especially appreciate the Delphic nature of the headings). What she shows is tangible evidence that what I referred to as the Great Awakening last year has taken firm root. Or, to use her words, we’ve always been aware, and drawn to, the goodness of the internet. For the first decade or so, it was all goodness, or so we thought. But now we have concerns — a lot of concerns — about what all that supposed goodness is doing to us.
“Consumers are aware of concerns about Internet usage overload and are taking steps to reduce usage,” Meeker writes. For instance, the percentage of adults trying to limit phone use jumped from 47 percent in 2017 to 63 percent a year later. And the number of parents who used digital parental controls for their children’s phone use more than tripled from 2015 to 2018, going from 16 percent to 57 percent. And Meeker also notes all the time-tracking features that major platforms like Apple, Google, Facebook and YouTube have added in the past year. What’s most dramatic is the deceleration of time spent on social media, growing at just one percent in 2018 vs. six percent in 2017.
That’s great news. But, no, it doesn’t mean everything is fine. As Meeker also notes, almost 26 percent of adults describe themselves as “almost constantly” online, up from 21 percent three years previously . And American adults now spend 6.3 hours a day with digital media, up from 5.9 the year before.
What it all adds up to is that our relationship with technology is still in a profound state of flux, and will be for the foreseeable future. We’re in a transition state in which awareness is slowly turning to action.
And even when you’re at that point, and you want to act, given how technology is taking the central role in nearly every aspect our lives, and how it can adeptly change — just enough — to meet the demands of our newfound concerns, it’s not always easy to know what action looks like.
But making it show up in even starker relief in next year’s report is the core Thrive Global’s mission.
And as an immigrant, I couldn’t help having my head turned by this stat from Meeker’s report: Fully 60 percent of the 25 most highly valued tech companies — including three of the top four: Amazon, Apple and Alphabet/Google — were founded by either first- or second-generation immigrants. And last year those companies employed 1.9 million people. It’s a sobering reminder that America’s leadership in the tech world didn’t just magically happen — it was a consequence of the American ideal of welcoming immigrants and allowing them to fully realize their talents and ambitions and belief in the future. In 2019, and certainly in 2020, that’s hardly something we can take for granted.