15% of Americans say they don’t need no stinking Internet

Internet? We don’t need no stinking Internet.

Well, that’s what 15% of adult Americans are saying anyway.

Actually, according to a study done by the Pew Internet & American Life Project showed that 15% of Americans 18 and older don’t use the Internet or email.

Why don’t they use it? Good question.

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After all, we live in a time when people update online friends about what they’re eating for lunch and upload vacation pictures of their dog in a canoe. (OK, I admit to this but she was really cute in that life jacket!)

Yep, face it. Many of us are a bit obsessed with sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. One study showed that we wake up during the night to update our status on Facebook. (Still sleeping. Good night, all.) We’re texting, tweeting and posting from work, from dinner with friends and even from the bathroom.

Dan Olds, an analyst with The Gabriel Consulting Group, said 15% seems like a pretty reasonable number when it comes to people who’d rather shun the Internet.

"To me, this isn't a surprise at all,” he added. “There's always a percentage of the population who are either late adopters or never adopters. It's a lot like asking a group of elderly mothers about speed metal music. It's just not on their radar right now.”

He does think the number will drop as time goes by and the Internet becomes even more pervasive in our everyday lives and cost and ease-of-use improve.

So who are these people who actually want old-fashioned face-to-face contact with their real-life friends?

Is it your grandma who still wants an in-person visit instead of time on Skype? Is it your odd uncle or the neighbor who still uses words like “newfangled” or “doohickey?”

Well, they could be part of that 15%. However, it seems there are people who just don’t see the advantage of watching their favorite shows on an iPad instead of the TV and find texting, email and funny Jimmy Fallon videos an intrusion instead of how they fill in some downtime at work.

Pew, which did telephone interviews with 2,252 people between April 17 and May 19 this year, noted that 34% of non-Internet users say the Internet is just not relevant to them. They are not interested, do not want to use it or just have no need for it.

Take that, all you digital addicts.

Thirty-two percent of the non-users had some solid reasons for not wanting to spend any of their time online. They said it’s difficult or frustrating to go online; they are physically unable or they are too concerned about things like spam, spyware and hackers.

Another 19% of non-users cite the expense of owning a computer or paying for an Internet connection, Pew noted. And 7% said the problem was simply not having access to the Internet. 

It’s that lack of access that bothers a lot of people, including Mark Zuckerberg, the co-founder and CEO of Facebook.

This summer Zuckerberg announced that was launching a global initiative to try to speed the delivery of Internet access to the two-thirds of the world that are not yet connected.

And he’s in good company. Zuckerberg is working with a team of technology companies — Ericsson, MediaTek, Nokia, Opera, Qualcomm and Samsung — on the project, dubbed internet.org. The goal is to make Internet access available to the 5 billion people who don't have it.

While some industry analysts applauded the effort, they also said it won’t be cheap, it won’t be easy and it certainly won’t be a fast process. Some said it could take up to 20 years to accomplish.

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[Kathryn Zickuhr, "Internet Adoption, 1995-2013," Who's Not Online and Why, Pew Internet & American Life Project, Sept 25, 2013.]

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