The Pew Research Center is one of the most respected think-tanks in America, and for excellent reason. On the other hand, you do kind of wonder what they were expecting when they polled people who didn’t use the Internet to find out why. Prepare for a shock: It’s cranky old people!
The study itself is somewhat fascinating in the double standards and odd attitudes it finds among adults offline. The general breakdown is that 34% think it’s irrelevant to their lives, 32% are scared of hackers, 19% just can’t afford it and have no access otherwise, and 7% just can’t get the Internet. Needless to say, the highest percentage of non-Internet users come from the 65 and over pool, at 44%.
To be fair, the vast majority of those involved admitted they would need assistance to get on and use the Internet, so it may be less about Luddism and more about difficulty with technology in general. That said, nearly half of offline adults surveyed had made somebody look something up on the Internet for them. Having experienced, back in the day, multiple phone calls from elderly relatives to look things up on my fancy computamajig, I am skeptical the other half haven’t done this.
Finally, there’s Pew’s look at Internet usage over time. It was just 14% in June 1995, and nearly twenty years later, it’s at 85% of all American adults. Which is kind of staggering, if you think about it.
It’ll be interesting to see what happens as demographics shift and the Internet becomes even cheaper and more accessible than it is now. Currently the FCC is testing “white-space” broadband, which would blanket everything in a sixty-mile radius with WiFi access, and is seen as a useful tool for rural areas to get connected faster. But until then, you’ll just have to duck Grandma’s calls.
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