In the digital age, it’s hard to imagine anyone who isn’t “on the grid” in one way or another.
And yet, research shows 13 percent of Americans do not use the internet. This translates to about 42 million U.S. citizens who do not go online.
Who are they and why haven’t they joined the digital world? The Pew Research Center, www.pewresearch.org, may have some answers.
In a 2016 report, Pew found the largest group of people still living solely in the analog world are those 65 and older. Roughly four in 10 adults in that age group are offline (pewrsr.ch/2ddtYy9).
That’s not really a surprising result; historically, older people tend to be among the last to embrace social or technological change.
What is interesting are the reasons people gave for not using the internet. A third of those who aren’t online said they simply had no interest in doing so or that it was not relevant to their lives. It may be hard for young online users to believe, but not everyone needs to follow cat memes, Pepe the Frog and Justin Bieber.
Another third said using the Internet was too difficult. Again, to the generations who were born with a smartphone in their hands and an online connection always active, how someone can find using the internet hard is probably mystifying. But for those who are older and have had to deal with modems, routers, WEP/WP2 settings, home computer network configurations and more, it’s easy to understand the confusion and frustration.
Finally, 19 percent said the cost of having internet service or owning a computer was too high.
Household income and education are correlated to the lack of internet access. The lower the yearly income and education level, the more likely there’s no online access.
In the Bismarck area, we’re fortunate to have public libraries and businesses that provide free public internet access. It’s certainly not a replacement for full, home-delivered online service, but it does fill a gap.
Pew notes the percentage of Americans offline is steadily dropping, especially among older users. For example, in 2000, eight out of 10 people 65 and older didn’t use the internet, compared with half that number today.
As each generation ages, the numbers are likely to continue falling.
By way of comparison, about half the people in the world do not use the internet, according to the latest numbers from the Internet World Stats site, www.internetworldstats.com.
In Europe, that number is just over 26 percent; in Asia, nearly 56 percent; and in Africa, just over 71 percent.
As of June 30, there were 3.6 billion internet users around the world, out of a global population of 7.3 billion (bit.ly/2dBWNa5).
Have you seen the latest commercials for Nespresso coffee and espresso machines, starring George Clooney? They are mini comedies wrapped around the Nespresso brand and have been developing a bit of a viral audience across the internet.
The first ad features Clooney training Danny DeVito on how to be the kind of person who deserves a Nespresso coffee.
The second ad has Clooney getting into trouble for uttering the words “Wouldn’t change a thing” to a woman who turns out to be the wife of a jealous husband.
Both ads are entertaining and come in short and long versions. They’re on YouTube and worth a peek — especially the one with DeVito, which features a clever special effect at the end. Here are the links: bit.ly/2cGSGse and bit.ly/2dBYi8i.
Keith Darnay is the Tribune’s online manager and has worked in the online world for more than two decades. His site is at www.darnay.com.