On Tuesday, the Pew Research Center released the results of a survey it conducted earlier this year which found that 15% of Americans age 18 and older do not use the internet. Forget about the 3% of adults in America who are still using dial-up; these folks don't even know what the internet is, much less have dreams of downloading a gif before bedtime.
So what's going on here? In this age of constant connectivity, 4G mobile data connections, and Google Fiber (the fastest internet service on this side of the Pacific), why are there still people who aren't using the internet?
According to the Pew survey, 34% of non-internet users feel that it isn't relevant to them, and have no interest or need for the internet. Are they dinosaurs? Because if they are alive on this planet, and particularly from a first-world country (check and check), there are a myriad of reasons why the internet is absolutely relevant and can be useful to them. Even if they aren't interested in the all-too-typical activities of illegal media pirating, file streaming, and gaming, the internet makes it incredibly easy to access volumes of information about anything.
All varieties of news, product reviews and recommendations, detailed maps of everything and directions to anyplace, meal planners and recipe lists, grocery shopping with same-day delivery, phone numbers and even free phone calls exist on the web; literally anything you could do in your lo-fi "real life" can be done more easily via the internet. Even criminals wanting to keep a low profile can still use the internet to step up their illegal enterprises via the Deep Web and marketplaces such as Silk Road and Atlantis. How is this possibly irrelevant?
Another 32% of non-internet users cite its difficulty of use as the reason they refrain. To this I say, many community centers, adult learning centers, schools, and businesses offer training courses designed to get you up to speed in using a computer and navigating the web. I hesitate to say that using the internet is a natural experience for anybody; rather, most of us millennials have put in the time since childhood learning the technology as we would a language, which is why it seems effortless for us. Even my grandmother, who is as far from a technophile as a person could be, enjoys using the internet after putting in the time to learn how. Consciously applying yourself to learning the web's idiosyncrasies might be a bit of a hassle to endure, but the payoff is worthwhile.
Out of all the groups of non-users identified in the Pew Research Center's survey, the 26% who simply don't have the resources to access the internet are the only folks who really have a good excuse to avoid it, because they aren't actually avoiding it at all. Access to broadband service is still fairly expensive in America, and when a family can barely afford to make its rent payments, internet service is an unnecessary luxury. It's also conceivable, albeit with difficulty, that there are some places in America without internet access; however, since this survey was conducted via telephone, we can assume that some of these folks are choosing to avoid the internet. But hey, at least they're not those geeks who still use dial-up, right?