In our March-May 2002 survey, we asked non-Internet users “Does anyone in your household go online from home to access the Internet or World Wide Web or to send and receive email?” Surprisingly, one in five of all non-users (20%) answered that they lived such households. The figure was so startling that we asked the same question in several subsequent monthly surveys – and got the same result.
Since Net Evaders have clear opportunities to go online, it follows that they would have clear reasons to resist. Their resistance to using the Internet reflects a concern that going online could distract from other more pressing demands on their time, and their view that they are not missing very much by not going online. Some also worry about their ability to master computers and online navigation.
Notably, 28% of Net Evaders have used the Internet in the past. These are people whose online experiences were not very satisfying. Many said they dropped off because they did not like the Internet world, or they did not find it interesting and useful, or they simply did not want to use the Internet any more. Computer and technology access issues were another major problem for them. Fourteen percent of Net Evaders reported computer access issues, perhaps because other members of their households were monopolizing their access to the family’s wired computer.
Almost half of Net Evaders believe they will go online some day, not particularly surprising since key hurdles to using the Internet – access and cost – have already been surmounted by the household.
We talked with several Net Evaders to explore their choice. One suburban homemaker said she avoided Internet use for fear of incurring even more obligations. She feared that use of email would eat into her already-full life and that she would feel duty-bound to keep in touch more frequently with people who lived outside of her immediate area. She worried about becoming “addicted” to the Internet, and also doubted her ability to learn to use the technology well. She referred, jokingly, to herself and a friend who was also not connected as “Dumb and Dumber.” The friend, though, has since become an Internet user.
Another interviewee owned his own business and worked from home. He preferred to communicate with others via the phone or face-to-face, which he found more meaningful and productive. In addition, he disclosed that he had figured out a work-around: If email turned out to be the best way to conduct a communication, he said he would have people send it to his wife, who would print it out for him. If he needed to look something up online, he could ask one of his children to check it for him and print it out.
Still others were proud that they did not use the Internet. They view themselves as less dependent on technology, and more self-sufficient. They said they do not want to use the Internet and view use of it as a form of weakness. They are pleased that they do not “need” the Internet. They are delighted to reject such a popular technology. In short, the decision not to use the Internet was a distinct lifestyle choice.
Net Evaders are fairly evenly divided by sex: 48% are men, 52% are women. They are slightly more likely to be between age 30 and 49 than in other age groups and they are not very likely to be senior citizens. Net Evaders are predominantly suburban and urban, not rural. They are overrepresented among Northeasterners and underrepresented among Midwesterners. Compared to others who don’t use the Internet, Net Evaders are likely to have relatively high levels of education and household income. Indeed, close to half of all non-users in households earning over $75,000 are Net Evaders.
A disproportionately high number of Net Evaders are parents. In fact, 66% of Net Evaders who live in a wired home are parents of online children. It is probable that the Net Evader in the home depends on his children who use the Internet to do the few online chores that might be convenient and useful to the Net Evader. It also might be the case that the Evader has decided not to battle others in the family for access to the Internet-connected computer.
There is other evidence that Net Evaders live lives very close to those who use the Internet. A little more than half of non-users in wired homes say that most of the people they know use the Internet. In comparison, only 35% of all non-users say this.