Hey, Internet: Maybe They’re Just Not That Into You!

Spot the logical failing:

  • We want everyone to use the Internet.
  • A full 15% of adults in America are not using the Internet.
  • They must want to but can’t, so this is a national failing that must be remedied.

The assumption is people are not using the Internet because they have no access, or because it is too pricey to connect to the Internet.  Something must be done!

But this is not always the case.  In fact, it isn’t even often the case.  A new Pew report examines who is not online, and the reasons why.  Summarized, among the sliver (15%) of adult Americans not using the Internet:

  • 34% say they don’t think it’s relevant, don’t have an interest, desire or need.
  • 32% say it’s difficult.  They just find it hard or frustrating to use, are physically incapable, or (and this number is on the rise), they fear things like spyware and hackers.

Nineteen percent cite the cost or a computer or a connection.  And only seven percent say it’s because they can’t access it.

In August, Richard wrote about a related study on home broadband subscriptions.  Pew found that “among adults who don’t use the internet at all, a lack of interest is often the main issue.”  As Richard said, “a personal broadband account is mainly an age thing, which is to say it’s mainly an interest thing … As a group, younger people tend to have less wealth than older people, and they tend to be better educated. Wealth, education, and ethnicity correlate with broadband subscriptions, but not as strongly as age. Similarly, income correlates with subscriptions, but not as strongly as interest.”

As Richard said, “We can always do better.”  But our digital divide policies should be based on facts, and we suspect the casual observer is not aware of this fact:  For a large percentage of those not online (to paraphrase the authors of a famous self-help book and movie) “maybe they’re just not that into it.”