In line with national trends across America, the people of Iowa are not only increasingly reliant on the internet for many of the activities they undertake on a daily basis – but the range of these activities is also multiplying. And as more and more new online technologies and startups come on stream, this trend looks set to continue.
Online access to all sectors has been significantly accelerated over the last couple of years, with the ongoing pandemic driving many commercial and social activities online, either in part or completely.
Although this has opened up discussions about a growing “digital divide” – where the gap between those who can readily access the internet and those who can’t become critically important – the trends are clear: the internet will continue to assume a more and more important role in our lives.
With this broad trend in mind, what are some of the most popular online trends in Iowa, moving into the latter half of 2022? And what will the future of internet usage look like in the Hawkeye State?
One trend that is quite clear is that Iowans are increasingly using the internet for a range of recreational purposes.
“Recreational purposes” covers a fairly broad spectrum of activities, and can include everything from catching up on your favorite TV show to socializing with your friends.
Of the various recreational uses Iowans are turning to the internet for, one particularly prominent trend is online gambling and sports betting.
Despite heavy restrictions still being in place for certain online casinos, the sports betting industry has flourished in recent years, thanks to the gradual liberalization of gambling laws in the Hawkeye State.
Because of this trend, more and more new customers are flocking to the many new betting platforms that have set up shop in recent years, which offer new customers a range of different betting services. And for a state filled with so many dedicated sports fans as Iowa is, this has proved to be a match made in heaven!
Sporting events such as the much-loved NCAA tournament have seen significant increases in sports betting, as Iowans flock to online betting platforms to place wagers on their favorite teams.
This year’s NCAA tournament saw Iowans bet a reported $223.5m, which was a 44% increase on last year’s total. It is expected that the upcoming college football season will stimulate similar trends.
Based on these trends, it looks like this online recreational activity will continue to grow moving into the latter half of 2022!
Another notable trend that Iowans seem keen on is online education.
Although online educational programs have been around for many years – the pandemic has helped to encourage widespread acceptance of and participation in them.
This is, of course, largely due to the fact that for much of the last two years, online learning has become the norm.
However, as the pandemic fades into the background and restrictions continue to be reduced, the interest in online educational programs looks set to remain. For this reason, online education will be an important trend to watch in 2022 and beyond.
In particular, not only will participation rates in online Iowa education continue to grow, so too will the variety of programs on offer.
Although Iowans have been enthusiastic users of online social media platforms for as long as these have existed, there are a number of emerging trends that indicate the change in how Iowans are using them.
One recent survey conducted on hundreds of Iowans between the ages of 18 and 44 provides some interesting insights about the digital media habits of Hawkeye State residents.
Firstly, and perhaps most notably, Iowans’ use of Facebook is rapidly declining. Previously, Facebook was the most popular social media platform across all age groups. However, according to this recent survey, there has been a decline from 82% to 74% of Iowans using Facebook in just two years.
Usage rates are at their lowest among members of the so-called Gen Z, which includes those between the ages of 18 and 24.
At the same time, however, the usage of Instagram – which is also owned by Facebook/Meta – has rapidly increased.
This has seen the number of Iowans reporting using the Instagram platform rise from 44% to 70%. Snapchat, TikTok and Twitter are all still a good bit behind – at 53%, 48% and 44%, respectively – while just 4% of Iowans reported using no social media whatsoever.
Another interesting statistic emerging from this report is that while Facebook usage is declining rapidly among Iowans, it was the platform that people reported spending the most time on.
Thus it seems that contrary to some of the media commentary we have seen in recent years regarding the decline of social media companies – Iowans are just as enthusiastic as ever.
The online future of Iowa: a need for digital literacy?
Based on these examples – we can very clearly see that the online world is as important as ever for Iowans. This has become particularly notable over the course of the last two years – with the pandemic accelerating trends that were already long underway.
However, as more and more of our daily lives are lived online – this creates an issue in the age of disinformation and when there are more risks online than ever.
For younger generations, in particular, this has created a need for a focus on encouraging digital literacy. With this in mind, one Iowa State University Professor has expressed a hope that parents, teachers and legislators will recognize the need to help children learn how to stay safe and healthy online.
This includes not only ensuring they limit the amount of personal information they put online, but also recognizing misinformation, spotting scams and limiting the amount of time they spend online more generally.
In doing so, we will not only create a more tech-savvy generation of Iowans but will also ensure they have a much healthier relationship with the online world.
This initiative will be key to ensuring that the digital future awaiting us is a healthy and prosperous one.