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Surfing better than a social life

Stay-at-home Brits glued to TV and internet

When it comes to our leisure hours, it seems we Brits know how to waste time, whether it's watching TV, playing games or surfing the internet, but we're not getting out of the house enough.

A survey by Virgin.net has found that social interaction is eschewed by 37 percent of Brits in favour of the TV, and one in five of the respondents who stated they were internet addicts surfed for a massive 21 hours a week.

The survey identifies this stay-at-home mentality as the most prevalent symptom of Life Imbalance — a malady of modern living where the sufferer compulsively pursues one pastime to the exclusion of all else, neglecting family and friends in the process.

Health expert Heather Wearing warned of the risks of such behaviour: "Being obsessive is never healthy, whether you are obsessive about TV, drinking or working," she said.

Respondents said they would prefer to pursue a more balanced variety of activities but are overwhelmed by the choices available to them. "Free time is precious to hard-working Brits, yet only one in five feel they spend it in a balanced way," said Virgin.net's MD, Alex Dale.

Not surprisingly, Dale brands the survey "worrying reading". The study shows that most Brits are less bored at work than at home, with the majority of those interviewed admitting to squandering precious free time watching the TV or sitting in front of their computer screens rather than going out, playing sports or meeting new people.

With interactive internet access available via services such as NTL's digital cable TV, the temptation of the web is set to grow still more. One million homes are now signed up to NTL's service, which lets people combine their favourite pastimes and surf from their sofas.

"Our customers send 1.8 million emails a month via their TVs, with 90 percent accessing the internet via the TV each month," NTL's Katie Stonehill told us.

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