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Survey: Usage varies widely among Americans with cell phones, Internet

According to a survey released today by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 15 percent of American adults have neither a cell phone nor Internet. Read the AP story or the more detailed Pew press release to see what I’m talking about.

From the AP article:

The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that adult Americans are broadly divided into three groups: 31 percent are elite technology users, 20 percent are moderate users and the remainder have little or no usage of the Internet or cell phones.

That “remainder” is, what, 49 percent? Half of Americans “have little or no usage of the Internet or cell phones”?! Am I missing something. There’s no way that’s right. A decade ago, yes. But in 2007? … Really?

The Pew study found 15 percent of all Americans have neither a cell phone nor an Internet connection. Another 15 percent use some technology and are satisfied with what it currently does for them, while 11 percent use it intermittently and find connectivity annoying.

(An aside, that paragraph only adds up to 41 percent. According to Pew release, there’s an additional 8 percent of the population considered “inexperienced experimenters” which makes up the difference between this number and the above “remainder.”)

I don’t know why this surprises me, but honestly, it just seems so ubiquitous. My guess would have been maybe 3-5 percent. I mean, everyone has a cell phone, right? And having a computer is kind of like a TV, just sort of expected. Of course not, but I think my age and the people I associate with has some bearing on my expectations for the “average American.” Much of my life, personal and professional, centers around using computers and cell phones. I mean, I would never go to an assignment without my phone, what if my editor needed to get a hold of me? what if there was breaking news that needed to be posted before I could get back? And I can’t remember the last time I went more than 24 hours without checking my e-mail, etc. I don’t even get my bills or bank statements through the mail any more, it’s all online, with reminders sent to my cell phone and e-mail (which I also check on my phone).

What’s not addressed but would totally interest the sociology-minor in me: Who are these people? The 49 percent with little or no use and specifically that 15 percent pretty much untouched by these modern conveniences, nay, necessities? And what opportunities may they be missing out on now, and especially in the future as these skills become more and more expected?

The point of the survey wasn’t really how many people have cell phones or Internet. It was designed to find out how much and in what ways people are using those devices. The press release breaks down what all the different categories are and how much of the population each represents. Basically there’s the people who not only have adopted the technology but use it for everything, those that use it only when necessary or who begrudgingly accept the need to use it, and then there’s that remainder, who feel burdened or left behind by the technology race.

I definitely fall in the elite user range, and specifically the “omnivore” category — fully embrace technology and express themselves creatively through blogs and personal Web pages — fits me, while most of my family and friends would be considered “connectors” — see the Internet and cell phones as communications tools.

There’s a quiz to find out what category you fall under. I correctly guessed my category, btw.

Here’s what it has to say about Omnivores:

Omnivores make up 8% of the American public.

Basic Description
Members of this group use their extensive suite of technology tools to do an enormous range of things online, on the go, and with their cell phones. Omnivores are highly engaged with video online and digital content. Between blogging, maintaining their Web pages, remixing digital content, or posting their creations to their websites, they are creative participants in cyberspace.

Defining Characteristics
You might see them watching video on an iPod. They might talk about their video games or their participation in virtual worlds the way their parents talked about their favorite TV episode a generation ago. Much of this chatter will take place via instant messages, texting on a cell phone, or on personal blogs. Omnivores are particularly active in dealing with video content. Most have video or digital cameras, and most have tried watching TV on a non-television device, such as a laptop or a cell phone.

Omnivores embrace all this connectivity, feeling confident in how they manage information and their many devices. This puts information technology at the center of how they express themselves, do their jobs, and connect to their friends.

Who They Are
They are young, ethnically diverse, and mostly male (70%). The median age is 28; just more than half of them are under age 30, versus one in five in the general population. Over half are white (64%) and 11% are black (compared to 12% in the general population). English-speaking Hispanics make up 18% of this group. Perhaps unsurprisingly, many (42% versus the 13% average) of Omnivores are students.

One Response to “Survey: Usage varies widely among Americans with cell phones, Internet”

  1. Mindy McAdams Says:

    You’re an omnivore, so you have a skewed perception. Think about the thousands of U.S. children who receive free school lunches because of financial need. And many of those kids have working parents. Can they afford a monthly cell phone bill? Can they afford a home Internet connection? Then think about older Americans. Not the well-off ones who takes cruises to Alaska. No, the ones who cannot afford their prescription medicine even though they have Medicare or Medicaid. There are 280 million stories in this country, and our newspapers miss a lot of them.