Rejecting the Internet: 15% of Adults Are Not Online

4 years ago

I met up with an old friend from childhood who asked if I was still writing. When I told her about my books and my blog, she informed me that she didn't read blogs. She just didn't see the point. She also wasn't on Twitter or Facebook or any other social media site.  She never surfed the Web.  Her experience with the online world could not be more different than mine.

Over the years, I've often marveled when an old friend has no Internet footprint: no social media accounts, no mentions online.  Apparently, I shouldn't be that surprised.  According to a report by the Pew Research Center, 15% of adults (over the age of 18) are not online.  That's almost one in six or seven people. 

It only seems as if everyone is online.

Image: Karen Bryan via Flickr

Back in 2004 when I first started blogging, only 63% of adults were online.  There has been a series of peaks and dips bringing participation up to 85%.  The three biggest factors determining whether or not someone is online are age, education, and income.  The study states:

44% of Americans ages 65 and older do not use the internet, compared with 17% of the next-youngest age group (adults ages 50-64). A similar proportion (41%) of adults who have not graduated high school are offline, as are 24% of Hispanics and 24% of those in households earning less than $30,000 per year. And 20% of rural residents say they do not use the internet, significantly more than those living in urban or suburban areas (14%).

Some of this seems straightforward: if you grew up without the Internet or have fewer opportunities to be exposed to it, it would follow that you wouldn't see yourself as missing the Internet if you didn't go online. 

I'm more interested in people like my old friend, who are part of an age, education level, and income group where the Internet is a common aspect of daily life, and yet she chooses not to partake -- not out of concern for her privacy or because she is doing something else that keeps her from going on the Internet, such as being out in nature.  She just chooses not to go online because she sees no point to the online world.  That interests me: that outright rejection of an aspect of daily life that for some people is so enjoyable that they check their smartphone on average 150 times in a day.

I'm going to guess that if you're reading this, you belong to that 85% of the population that goes online.  Do you have friends or family members who are in that 15%?  Are you surprised when a friend has no social media accounts or presence online?

Melissa writes Stirrup Queens and Lost and Found. Her novel about blogging is Life from Scratch.

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