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Ignorance of Internet Is Bliss for Some Adults, Survey Finds

Online: About 50% of Americans polled are Netless by choice. Fear, technophobia and disinterest are main reasons.


AUSTIN, Texas — The head of the Texas AFL-CIO understands technology's benefits for future generations of workers. But Joseph Gunn's personal office is void of computers, and he would rather let his wife and staff surf the Internet on his behalf.

"To some degree I feel bliss in being ignorant," said Gunn, 69, one of millions of Americans saying no to Net life. "I'd rather read during what time I might devote sitting on the Internet."

A study released Thursday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that more than half the American adults who don't use the Internet have little or no desire to get online.

They are America's Netless by choice, and their lack of interest suggests it will take a lot more time than many had thought before the United States becomes a fully connected nation.

Lee Rainie, director of the Pew project, said the Internet story is no longer about "Everybody's doing it. Everybody's loving it. . . . There's this other group of folks who say, 'It's not for me.' "

According to Pew, about 50% of American adults said they are not Internet users. Thirty-two percent of that group--or 31 million Americans--said they definitely will not go online. And 25% said they probably won't go online.

Fear, technophobia and disinterest are among the main reasons.

Fifty-four percent of all nonusers believe the Internet is dangerous, and 51% do not believe they are missing anything, according to Pew, whose findings were primarily based on an April telephone survey of 2,503 adults and have a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The numbers did, however, suggest that the Net naysayers will decline over time.

While nearly three-quarters of nonusers over 50 said they do not plan to get Internet access, only one-third of their younger counterparts plan to stay Netless.

"It might take a generation," Rainie said, before the entire nation is comfortably online.

Martha Terry, a 59-year-old caterer in Glasgow, Ky., heard good things about the Internet from her son. But she's not convinced.

"The computer bothers me, makes me nervous," she said. "I feel like I don't have control. A lot of it is because I don't understand it."

Thirty-nine percent of nonusers complained about the cost of getting online, while 36% said doing so is too difficult. Internet appliances are being developed to make access simpler and affordable, but they won't address the fears or disinterest.

The study also found 13% of nonusers are dropouts--they once had access but no longer do. Fourteen percent of all Americans have a computer but are not online.


Netless By Choice

According to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, half of the adults in the U.S. choose not to use the Internet and 57% of those are not interested in connecting to the Web anytime soon.


Will current avoiders of the Net ever go online?

Definitely not: 32%

Probably not: 25%

Definitely will: 12%

Probably will: 29%

Note: Telephone survey of 2,503 adults with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percentage points; numbers may not add to 100 due to rounding.

Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project

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