People who never use the internet: why/how?
October 2, 2018 10:14 PM   Subscribe

Do you personally know anyone who never uses the internet? Can you tell us why they don't, and how they manage without it?

Assuming the figures on Wikipedia are accurate, as of 2016, roughly 24% of Americans, 12% of Australians, 10% of Canadians and 5% of Brits never "accessed the Internet in the last 12 months from any device, including mobile phones."

Just to clarify, I'm not asking about which types/demographics of people are likely to not use the internet. Rather, I'm asking for personal anecdotes about people you know who never use the internet, not even from someone else's device (e.g. via a public library).
posted by paleyellowwithorange to Society & Culture (56 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
 
My small children and our elderly neighbor. Also my 95 year old grandpa. The first examples of people aren’t living independently so others make things happen for them. My grandpa has a strict routine and never introduced the internet. He writes letters and uses a landline. He doesn’t try new things.
posted by catspajammies at 10:19 PM on October 2, 2018 [4 favorites]


One of my sisters in law has never used the internet. She uses the telephone (a land line, not mobile) as Facebook, the phone book, the reference section at the public library, the television, magazines and newspapers and the AM/FM radio as Google.
posted by jamaro at 10:19 PM on October 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


Well, my grandmother for one. She turns 90 next year, and she's never been really interested in computers. I remember she used to type letters in the word processor and mail them to me, but it's been a while since had the hand control to type. She lives with my aunt and uncle so it's possible they use the internet on her behalf (like accessing her social security records?) but a lot of that stuff is still done by mail as well, like her California state pension. As far as I know, she does not even have an email address.
posted by muddgirl at 10:22 PM on October 2, 2018


Forgot to add the why: SIL simply has no interest in the internet. She's not militant about it, it's just not something she's curious about and she's happy with how she's getting along.
posted by jamaro at 10:25 PM on October 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


My 76-year-old mother. She took a short computer class from a friend, but nothing clicked with her. Although she loves getting e-mail from her older (!) sister and other family members, and she likes it when I show her the cute animal photos I collect for her, she has no interest in logging on herself. OTOH, she'll make a phone call where I would send an e-mail, and she gets things done that way.
posted by bryon at 10:46 PM on October 2, 2018 [1 favorite]


A mate of mine in his fifties. He'll respond to texts sometimes but prefers phonecalls. I think he's just kind of never got around to it. He lives simply, is not materialist and doesn't want to buy anything online or really see the point in its other uses. He has his fairly extensive social network well established around seeing people and phonecalls and it's enough for him. I've worked with him and a couple of things would have been easier if he'd use email, but at a trivial rather than significant level.

It's not that he doesn't use just the internet though, he is utterly computer illiterate and cannot type with more than one finger. He'd be starting from the level of a three year old if he did want to get on the net for something.
posted by deadwax at 11:31 PM on October 2, 2018 [2 favorites]


My ex's mother is a woman in her mid 70s who's literally never used the Internet in her life. She also doesn't have a mobile phone. When the tech started becoming mainstream she simply didn't see a use for it in her own life (and didn't consider it worth paying for), and then by the time it became ubiquitous she had developed some very strong anti-technology feelings.

She mostly manages just fine. She communicates with her friends and family via voice calls, and regularly sends cards and handwritten letters. (She doesn't always get letters back, though.) She does sometimes call her son and ask him to look things up on the Internet for her, though, and very occasionally asks him to order something she can't get anywhere locally. She pays her bills over the phone or by sending a check in the mail. She owns a small business, orders supplies by calling the suppliers or faxing order forms, and still uses the same mechanical cash register she's used for decades. Credit card processing was starting to become a concern the last time I talked to her a few years ago, though--her bank wanted to stop allowing customers to use the manual imprinter and start requiring that they have a network-connected reader, and she didn't want even that.

We tried for years to convince her to at least get a dumbphone for emergencies and a simple device we could send her photos on, but she just does not want to be connected, and secondarily doesn't want to learn to navigate an entirely new and foreign world.

She's the only person I know who remains a holdout. It took my own mom a very long time to be willing to touch a connected computer, but she came around a few years ago and now lives for Facebook photos of her family. And I know quite a few people who use the internet only very, very rarely, for utilitarian purposes and not for casual funsies.
posted by rhiannonstone at 11:31 PM on October 2, 2018 [4 favorites]


My mother-in-law (mid seventies) does not use it.

I asked her about email once and she says she tried it but finds it annoyingly slow compared to writing letters "because you have to write your letter, and then you have to type it into the computer". So, I guess, general lack of digital-first workflow? If you see a computer as duplicating things you can do in the real world already, but with more complications and barriers, why would you use them?

She is retired, so doesn't need computers for work.

Her hobbies are gardening, church, learning languages, and travelling. For travel and learning languages, I think the internet/computers would be useful, but I think she does those specifically for the social interaction of going to language classes and meeting people, so doing things online defeats the purpose. She books travel by going in person to a travel agent. I think she would find it slower and less convenient to try to learn to do that herself online. Eventually after doing things online a bunch of times, they become quicker, but you have to be willing to invest in the learning curve in the first place, and she doesn't see any reason why she should.

I think she would probably find the internet useful for finding new recipes too, since she always loves it when I teach her a new recipe, and they are almost always things I found online. But I think she has no concept of how vast the internet is and how much stuff you can find there, so she doesn't know she is missing out.

Her husband, who is in his 80s, loves computers and is online a fair bit. He uses Facebook, and email, he reads online newspapers, especially because he can access them in his native language (Swedish), and he programs (he created a database to help them plan their gardening, for example, and to keep track of plants they want to add to the garden and his own plant breeding experiments). Sometimes he prints things off for his wife, and I think she does enjoy reading printed emails and interesting articles he has printed, but for her that's not really different from the newspaper clippings or letters that other members of her family show her from time to time.

MAYBE if he didn't print things off for her she might have been convinced to go online to find Swedish content and to access emails from the family members who no longer write written letters. Maybe.
posted by lollusc at 11:41 PM on October 2, 2018 [4 favorites]


Two friends of mine, one a roofer and one a plumber, have never used the internet or a computer. They are both old hippies in their late 50s and just have no interest in learning to use a computer. They do use dumb phones. They both pay cash for everything, one I am sure has never had a credit card. One reads a lot and spends a lot of time in bookstores. The other mostly gets high and listens to music when not working.

I on the other hand am an old hippie that lives on a computer most of my waking life. I've offered to help set them up with email, but so far, neither shows any interest. One of them asks me to look up stuff for sale on Craigslist once in awhile but I can't get him to sit and search for himself. I'm just as odd in my own way, I refuse to have or use a cell phone or text. Good old fashioned email for me.
posted by a humble nudibranch at 11:56 PM on October 2, 2018 [5 favorites]


An observation: If you ask people "Do you ever use the internet?" then there may be a category of people who answer "no" because they have no idea what that is. By contrast, they may be quite happy responding that they use email, that they talk to relatives on Skype or that they follow friends on Facebook.

This may be particularly true of more elderly people who have been taught to use these applications by family and friends. It can already be quite challenging explaining "this is how you read email, this is how you write email, this Nigerian princess who is contacting you is not real..." without getting into a discussion of any of the underlying technology itself.
posted by rongorongo at 11:58 PM on October 2, 2018 [7 favorites]


Well, husband's friend who worked with the internet as part of his consultancy for the FBI had/has a 386 PC in his closet that he only fires up to check Usenet/IRC on model railroads. Let me say that Snowden's revelations did not surprise him one bit. He is Gen X.
posted by jadepearl at 12:01 AM on October 3, 2018 [5 favorites]


My accountant is about my age (late 40s). He does not use the internet. When absolutely necessary, his son uses Gmail and will send email on his behalf.

He does have a PC, which is not networked. The tools he uses are very ancient and I think still installed from original media. He has a landline which I call him on, and, amazingly, a working fax machine.

Greg reckons people move too fast and don't pay attention in this modern age, he's never been into that kind of thing and doesn't see what the fuss is about. As far as I can tell he has all the custom he can deal with personally, mostly older people. He likes having a yarn and lives frugally and for all I can tell has a far better quality of life than most people.

(we live in New Zealand)
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:36 AM on October 3, 2018 [5 favorites]


Two:
A woman whose husband will not allow a computer in the house. (As long as she worked at a school, she used a computer; he is the problem.)
Another woman whose daughter was married to an electronic genius would not allow a computer in her house. ("Work of the devil".)
Most every one else I know is hooked on technology and/or social media.
posted by Cranberry at 12:43 AM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Neither of my dad's parents have ever accessed the internet. My grandpa has used a computer when MS DOS was around but he retired before computers were introduced into the public service. My grandma hasn't worked outside the home since she got married.

Neither of them can actually conceptualise what the internet is. If they want to talk to someone they call, on their land-line since neither of them has a mobile either. I don't know how they pay their bills. Maybe over the phone or at the post office?

They've been on several cruises which my dad booked for them.

They're both in their eighties.
posted by aussie_powerlifter at 1:43 AM on October 3, 2018


My grandmother is 91 and doesn't use the internet. She retired before the World Wide Web was invented, so she never needed to use the internet for work. She communicates on the phone or in person, and she lives in a retirement village so she gets a lot of social contact that way. She uses public transport and has paper copies of the timetables. She also goes to cultural things like the ballet, which she keeps up with through their postal mailing lists. She pays bills by posting cheques.

She has a PC from the 90s that isn't networked that she occasionally fires up to play solitaire. A few years back she asked family members to show her how to use the internet, but she didn't keep it up for very long. She had trouble grasping a lot of the concepts like clicking on links or scrolling to reveal more content on the page.

She also doesn't like the internet because of concerns around security. When she's had issues with utility companies, she hasn't wanted family members to log in to her account online to try to sort things out for her, because she's worried that it won't be secure. She uses the phone for that, and one time she even fronted up at the corporate office of the power company to insist that her problem be fixed! She also refuses to use even phone banking or ATMs for the same reason - she has a passbook and goes to the bank to have the teller fill it out.
posted by Whichty at 1:45 AM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Much of the older generation in my Mexican immigrant family. My mom and dad's siblings and cousins. My own dad (mid 70's) has never used the Internet.

Communication with others of his generation is the same way it has always been: phone calls, people dropping by etc. He spends a lot of his time reading, gardening, home repairs and one of his favorite activities is driving around to weekend yard sales (always posted on corner signs) and finding bargains or hunting down a specific tool/car-part he needs. Driving around, interacting with shop-keepers is something he really enjoys so buying things online would diminish his life, not enhance it.
posted by vacapinta at 1:58 AM on October 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


My Dad is 71 and never uses the internet. Nor does he have a mobile phone. In recent years his partner (a few years older than him) has started using a tablet, pretty much exclusively to access Facebook, so he'll have been shown that at least, but otherwise he reads; he watches TV; he reads newspapers; he shops offline - he sees all manner of references to the internet but just isn't inclined to try it for himself.
posted by misteraitch at 2:23 AM on October 3, 2018


My 85yo grandma (UK) has never used the internet - another older person who was long retired before it would have been a thing at work. Back when she was still capable of engaging with things (she's been bedbound for the last three years), she wasn't particularly interested in technology, and she didn't have the kind of money a computer would have cost in the 90s when home computing for ordinary people started to become a thing over here.

Ironically, she does now have an internet connection at home, but only so that my mother can check up on her/her carers via a wireless nanny (granny?) cam. She doesn't have any kind of personal device that can access the connection, though.

She's never been vehemently anti-technology, just not particularly interested. Her interests as a still-active older person were things like knitting, gardening, reading and puzzles, none of which needed an internet connection. While she never shook her fist at kid stuff, she did have a charmingly old-world approach to things when her grandchildren were growing up in the 90s and 00s - she once saw the music video for Duality by Slipknot while my sister and I were watching it (it begins with a lot of muddy people running into a house so they can mosh with the band) and she pointed to one dirty guy and said, "why didn't he wash himself before he went on the video?".
posted by terretu at 2:42 AM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


My father (late 70s) refused to learn about computers when they were introduced at his job and as he was very close to retirement he got away with that. He now occasionally asks my brother or me to look up train times for him but by and large he is self sufficient using the phone, the annual update to the local public transport timetable booklet and going out to meet and talk to people. He reads a physical newspaper and watches tv or listens to the radio on the related devices. He owns a dumb mobile phone but no longer drives. His life is simple and he doesn’t travel outside the local area and it works for him!
posted by koahiatamadl at 2:50 AM on October 3, 2018


I have an elderly aunt and uncle (90s) who do not have a computer and do not ever use the internet for anything. They read the newspaper and actively engage with the news, so much that they frequently write letters to the editor (by post), shop by ordering from print catalogs (ordering via telephone,) pay bills by check in the mail, etc. They just don't see the need to pay for a computer, and there's no reason for them to have cell phones.
No one I know over 75 even leaves their phone on when they're not actively on a call. They think you have to turn it off between calls. They don't routinely bring a phone with them when they go out. Most of them don't have smart phones.
My own 80 year old mother keeps phone numbers in a handwritten book but eventually was saying, like everyone else she heard, "Yes, I have your number on my phone" and "I have his number, it's on my phone already," etc., and when i saw her phone, it had five or six phone numbers taped to it on little pieces of paper.
posted by nantucket at 3:00 AM on October 3, 2018 [12 favorites]


No one I know over 75 even leaves their phone on when they're not actively on a call. They think you have to turn it off between calls. They don't routinely bring a phone with them when they go out. Most of them don't have smart phones.
This! My grandad is 89 and recently went into a care home, but until earlier this year was living mostly independently. He has a very cheap mobile phone with no data - the kind that they used to give away if you bought a £10 top up - and turns it off when he's not actively making a call. The battery on this thing lasts two weeks with light use, and we've tried to explain that it would be super useful for him to leave it on, but he still turns it off. He seems to think it costs money to leave on. I can't quite figure out why.

Before he went into the care home, he didn't have an internet connection at home but relied on my dad and a neighbour with broadband to look things up for him and occasionally used Skype or WhatsApp to talk on video to relatives in Australia when he was at my dad's house. He had a fall monitor, but it didn't use the internet, it just telephoned a service centre in the nearest town if it went off.
posted by winterhill at 3:25 AM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


My mom, a 60 yr old Indian immigrant, has never surfed the web or sent an email by herself. I’ve dictated emails for her and she does Skype with relatives frequently, but my dad sets those up.
posted by sandmanwv at 3:29 AM on October 3, 2018


So, I work with alot of people experiencing or with history of chrnoic homelessness and people in nursing homes . And, the US in many nursing homes don't offer computer access, and because they take all but 30 dollars of any SSDI or SSI income (up to thr cost of the placement which most people never meet), they can't afford a cell phone or computer unless a family member provides it. So many just live without.

The chronic homeless adults commonly don't have ID much less a working phone. They may have occasional access but have significant educational and social barriers to learning so many just don't at all.
posted by AlexiaSky at 3:47 AM on October 3, 2018 [6 favorites]


My parents do not have internet access at home. My 65 y/o mom used the internet sparingly at work before she was retired, mostly for email; once she stopped working she didn't bother to get a router set up or learn to access the internet through the library. She's a bit of a technophobe and seems to think she's too old/forgetful to learn how to use it.

How she manages - she pays bills with paper check, uses the newspaper and radio for weather and news, reads and watches movies for entertainment, calls people on the landline when she wants to talk to them.
posted by bunderful at 4:42 AM on October 3, 2018


My handyman. He’s intelligent, well traveled, etc., but lives very frugally and is pretty introverted. He has a cell phone and gets texts, but no internet. He doesn’t even check his texts very often. He’s interested in getting internet but I think the cost worries him.
posted by HotToddy at 5:35 AM on October 3, 2018


One of my close friends -- 40 -- never used it at home until about 2 years ago. She had internet in college, but just didn't really see what the fuss was about, e-mail was mostly spam, and when she graduated she was just like "meh." She knows how, she uses the company intranet at work quite fluently, but there just wasn't anything she was interested in. If you wanted to talk to her, you called her. (She didn't text either.) She still gets a daily newspaper. She doesn't really watch TV.

Two years ago her husband bought her a smartphone against her will because she was constantly complaining her dumb phone didn't take pictures and everyone was tired of not being able to text her. And I think her last five non-internet years were possible because her husband did a lot of online interactions like bill-paying or ordering from Amazon and buying plane tickets and so she could just ignore it.

Now that she's used to her smartphone, she likes it okay and it's nice to be able to send her articles online, and she's into texting. She still won't use social media and basically never responds to e-mail. I think she basically uses it to find e-books on Amazon and read articles a few people send her. She finds my job mystifying ("but what do you DO online all that time?") because she doesn't really think there's enough worthwhile content on the internet for people to spend hours at a time looking at it. All kinds of minor routine internet uses amaze her: We went to a movie together a few weeks ago and I bought the tickets online in advance and texted her her ticket -- she had no idea you could do either of those things! She knew you could look up showtimes online, but she can do that in the paper so she didn't see the big deal, so she was like "whoa, this is neat!" when she found out you could buy tickets and have them sent to your phone.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 5:40 AM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


An even older than me lady at water exercise does not even have a computer and does not want one. She manages fine. I do email, google, some genealogy, but do not text and have never owned a smart phone, so in many ways I am out of the loop of modern life. I find people always looking at their phones no matter where they are annoying. I only use the old phone I have for travel, other than that land line. This makes me feel isolated and sad at times, but I am easily confused by technical things, don't know that I could deal with a smart phone. All my friends my age are addicted to them. I feel like I have fallen out of time and am still living in an age that has gone. A sort of ghost. Ironically my husband is a computer wizard.

On the other hand my husband's 93 year old aunt does email just fine and uses the internet a bit.
posted by mermayd at 5:43 AM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Pretty sure my husband's elderly aunt is in this category. She's 91, and her late husband was a legit electronics genius but of the oldschool vacuum tubes variety. He passed nearly 20 years ago so he never really got to see the internet in full, uh, flower. She's got a flip phone and lives at an assisted living home with probably quite a lot of other people who have never used the internet.
posted by soren_lorensen at 5:58 AM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


I do not know of anyone who does not use the internet for at least things like email. Even my mother uses email. (Although I think she is still missing part of the concept as she replies to electronic bills with a "thank you" email.)

A few years back, I planned to not use the internet (computer or smartphone) for 3 months. I lasted 5 weeks. Did not see the point after a while.
posted by AugustWest at 6:04 AM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Wow. I'm boggled by the number of older people not using it; after he retired , my stepfather took to it like a duck to water once he realized the amount of information about his hobbies was out there. He joined listserves about tree farming, e.g., and then undertook a huge photo-scanning-and-sharing project so that his daughters would have better access to the family photo archive -- and all this, basically, between his retirement and his death at 80 in 2015.

My mother is a tiny bit younger -- only now 78 -- but she's been very facile with the net and her smartphones for at least a decade. I think the initial driver was quilting -- modern quilting sewing machines are basically tabletop CNC machines -- but she's gone beyond that now. I get Facetime calls, and she enjoys Netflix and Amazon video via her Roku, etc. She has a decent understanding of what the Net actually is, and how she can use it to improve her life.

Neither use(d) social media at all, but that's no huge loss.

What REALLY amazes me are the stories of people my age (48) or younger who don't or won't use it. Accessing information there has become so easy, and so ubiquitous, that the legacy means of accomplishing many tasks are withering and dying. I'd find it hideously frustrating to try and book a flight without the Internet. Accessing new hobbies -- analog ones! -- is easier because of Youtube (it's my go-to when I have bike maintenance questions).
posted by uberchet at 6:27 AM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


One of the board members of the non-profit organization I work for has never, ever used the internet. He never even had a computer for things like word processing, and he was still working in the early 90s. He's 82 now.
posted by cooker girl at 6:28 AM on October 3, 2018


I'm not sure either of my parents do. My dad (66) I'm almost certain does not. He didn't own a computer until at least 2003, and as of 2012 or so did not have an operational one in his house. His side of the family just held a family reunion organized by email, and his email was not included in the mailing list. I know he has used email before he retired, but the circumstantial evidence is strong that he still doesn't use it anymore. I do know he does not own a smartphone (he did not own a cell phone of any kind until maybe four or five years ago). His primary hobby in retirement is historical research, and he spends a lot of time in actual libraries, including traveling to far-flung ones. He has a pretty wide offline network of weak social ties, so he gets a lot of stuff from them, and he's a big TV news (broadcast, in my experience, although I wouldn't be surprised if he's switched to MSNBC) and newspaper guy. He's never been a huge communication-technology guy, though. I don't believe he has ever subscribed to cable TV in his life. (He has DirecTV now, but until around 2004 or 2005 he was broadcast-only).

My mom (64) definitely still uses the internet for work (she's a paralegal), and she owns a computer, but I don't know if she uses it. I almost never talk to her by email, and when I do, it's via her work address. The only time I use her home email address is to log into streaming services. :) She has a Facebook account that someone set up for her, but I don't know that she has logged into it, and she owns a Kindle Fire, but as far as I'm aware, she only uses it for offline games. She's another person who's pretty set in her ways and doesn't like change. Not to the degree my dad is - he actively resists new technology; she just hasn't found ways to incorporate it into her life. She's pretty introverted and doesn't socialize much, so social media doesn't really interest her, and most of her family moved several time zones away well before cheap long distance calling became a thing, so she's used to going long periods of time without much contact with people close to her. The idea of being able to contact someone at any time without any friction is pretty weird to her. Even with me, I only text a few times a week, and call maybe twice a month, and we're pretty close. (Caveat, though: my sister lives with her, and she's fully online, so I'm sure my mom absorbs some internet stuff from her. If I need to get in contact with my mom, about half the time I'll call or text my sister, knowing that she's more likely to answer than my mom is.)
posted by kevinbelt at 6:32 AM on October 3, 2018


My 95 year old grandma. She COULD use it, because she has an iPhone and she's able to send texts, but she doesn't know how, nor is she interested in learning. She's always asking me to send emails to Ellen or order her things off of Amazon.
posted by elsietheeel at 6:48 AM on October 3, 2018


I work with clients with serious mental-health issues who are on Medi-Cal (the state's Medicaid) and generally SSI. Many of them have significant cognitive or educational hurdles with reading, and all of them have severely limited funds. The ones with active auditory hallucinations or severe depression often have difficulty concentrating. A lot of them don't have smartphones (they were just recently included in the Lifeline subsidized phone program for disabled people), and of those who do, many who do have extreme difficulty using them. I think there's now a program for subsidized internet access for low-income/disabled people, but most of my clients can't afford a computer. Many of them are too paranoid to go to the library regularly (though many do, too).
posted by lazuli at 7:00 AM on October 3, 2018


Most Canadians live in urbanized areas. I live rural (about an hour and a half away from Toronto, and my daughter works in remote communities in Northen Ontario). Actual access to the internet can be difficult/expensive in non-urban areas. I believe Canada has one of the worst access and most expensive rates in OECD countries (I bet Australia is in a similar position).

My previous home in 2015 had no internet infrastructure so satellite Internet was the only option ($$$). The village I buy my gas at has zero internet access, even cell phones don’t work due to a quirk of geography. Remote communities are the same; it is a big country and we don’t even have roads to all our communities, let alone fibre optic. Having used it recently, dial up in 2018 is painful, and more frustrating than useful. So, I know quite a few people that don’t feel a need for internet (because they have lived without it) and get on just fine; from the twenty year old guy who pumps my gas to older people who spend so much time outside they don’t want to sit in front of screen when they go in.
posted by saucysault at 7:32 AM on October 3, 2018 [9 favorites]


My baby has never used the internet.
My 93-year-old grandmother doesn't. I think she used to check her email occasionally, but she has dementia now and is completely incapable of it. She does occasionally facetime with family, but her aide sets it up on her personal iphone, and I'm not sure my grandmother totally grasps what's going on, so I wouldn't really call that using the internet.
posted by john_snow at 7:39 AM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Lots of my friends don't use it. They know about it and aware of all advantages but when living on disability it is a significant expense. Not only the investment in a computer but then the internet cost. That requires having a reliable income every month. I give up a significant portion of my monthly income of 600$ after rent to be connected to it.

So they survive by making phone calls, paying bills at the teller, and asking friends to look things up.
posted by kanata at 7:41 AM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


My mother didn't use it, even though she'd use a tablet to read books, she had no interest in the internet and as she was legally blind found it hard to use, she liked it made the writing bigger in her books though but found resizing things to go online a pain.

My brother is 44 and he only started using it (does facebook count as using the internet?)because he went overseas for 3 months & it was a way for him to send photos back home then stopped when he got back home He was never into tech stuff when we were kids, I think to rebel against me as I was a super nerd big sister. By the time he needed it for work etc, the basics had passed him by. He however a texting fiend.

My mum asked me to research anything she needed online, & he asks his daughter. Who at 18 strangely doesn't consider herself online when she's using her phone. Apparently the internet is what is in her computer & her phone is a separate thing in her mind, because she gives me shit about being online all the time when she's on her phone as much as I'm on my computer. . .so some of your figure might be similar confusion if people are self reporting. .
posted by wwax at 7:52 AM on October 3, 2018


My mom (68).

Tech averse. Doesn't like feeling stupid. (My brother tried to give her a tablet for Christmas one year (thinking the touch interface would appeal to her, the response was tears and "you know I don't do technology!)

Doesn't need it. 411 if she needs a phone number. Catalogs to buy stuff. Maps to get around. She will very begrudgingly text me sometimes, but she didn't want to learn T9, so it takes forever for her.

Can't say as I fault her for any of it. We all get set in our ways. I thought Facebook was stupid from the start (still do, along with social media generally). Same goes for slack, though I have to use that for work. It's just a message board with a fancy interface, people! I'm sure plenty of new things will come along that I'll be too stubborn to adopt.
posted by booooooze at 7:58 AM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


My mom (65) was in this category until 18 months ago. She had used the internet somewhat when my sister and I were in high school, but once we were both at college she let the service lapse (was annoyed by the cost). She subsequently missed a HUGE cultural learning curve (2007-2017) when lots of people of her generation were getting up to speed on computers. She never did, and so started to feel very threatened and uncomfortable with technology. It was bizarre to have her be so retrograde in her attitudes, since in many other ways she's quite open and youthful.

She has an incredibly vibrant social life (managed via texts and phone calls and LOTS of in-person socializing), and works at a bookstore so tech was not a big part of her daily life. She got the newspaper (two, actually) delivered daily for news/weather. Her hobbies are reading, listening to music (radio/CDs), and cooking. These could have been enhanced by the internet, but she was resistant. She paid bills by mail and shopped in person (or from QVC, sigh). She has lived in the same large metro area for 35+ years, so had no need for navigation services (I wish I had her sense of direction!). When she absolutely needed to do something online, like buying a plane ticket, other people would do that for her and just verbally give her the confirmation code and flight info.

What brought her into the fold was when I gave birth to her first grandchild. I live across the country and she LOVES seeing daily photos on our family sharing site. We Facetime at least once per week. Now she's slowly getting onto email, more receiving than sending. She does not want Facebook or Instagram, but she's started looking up recipes online and also streaming music!
posted by Bebo at 8:32 AM on October 3, 2018


My family friend, 75, has never used the internet. He's a carpenter, though now retired, and spent all day on construction sites and building things and was able to do all his invoices by hand. Now he's very outdoorsy and spends all his time gardening and effing hates winter because he's cooped up inside all the time and can't do anything.

My aunt, 70ish, uses a computer for email but will never, ever, ever use a credit card online. She orders everything over the phone, reading the card number if they don't have it already. She has a small business, and does this a lot (though her husband does a lot more ordering online for her). She is furious that her new car no longer has a 5-CD changer, because she liked having the variety of 5 CDs at once.

Yes, at the same time, my mother, 78, took to the internet as soon as it existed. I vividly remember the day: I was at her house in 1996 or so, and I dialed up the NYT home page. An hour later I left, and she was still clicking (all free of course at that point).
posted by Melismata at 8:55 AM on October 3, 2018


One of my in laws, a successful writer and former academic, and not a technophobe, has been too busy to be distracted by the internets. He does rely on friends to help book airline tickets online and things like that, but I don't think he's ever "surfed" the web. I envy.
posted by ovvl at 9:16 AM on October 3, 2018


I've met a couple of people in their 50s & 60s who didn't use the internet, because that's what minions are for. Emails went to their secretary, who would print them out; if the person deigned to reply, they would dictate a reply old-school on a dictaphone, which secretary would then type and email back. Any other internet tasks would be delegated to other junior staff.
It felt to me like a class/power thing - the internet is a tool, and tools are what the servants have to do things for you.
posted by Vortisaur at 10:39 AM on October 3, 2018 [6 favorites]


I'm in my 60s. I taught Intro To Computing and Intro to the Internet courses at Adult Ed for a while, to a variety of groups including seniors. I had some students who were refugees; computing and Internet had simply not been available; they were adapting to so many new things that they took to technology quite well. Some old people embraced the Internet because it's the path to knowledge and connection Those who didn't were apt to be less curious and less interested in anything new. I'm defensive about about it because age discrimination has really affected my ability to be hired. I meet many young people who thingk the Internet is Facebook, Instagram and Google; lack of curiosity is not age-defined. These days, even in quite remote areas of the world, cellular service makes limited Internet connectivity available in surprising places.
posted by theora55 at 11:01 AM on October 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


I for sure have Girl Scout parents in my neighborhood who do not use the internet. These are not elderly people.

It's a combination of being poor, being undocumented and unable to access things like bank accounts/cell phone contracts easily, being poor, speaking little to no English, being poor, and also being poor. Their kids can get online at the library, thank goodness, but availability is limited.

Internet costs money. Computers cost money. Phones cost money. Data plans cost money. Basic computer literacy education in not-English is limited. 8:59 am on Saturdays you'll see 20+ people waiting in line outside my library just to get in to use the computers and have internet access.

Support your local libraries, folks.
posted by phunniemee at 11:06 AM on October 3, 2018 [14 favorites]


One of my grandmothers (91) had a computer that she only used for talking on Skype with relatives in Ukraine and here in the US. After those relatives passed away, unfortunately, her faculties started to decline.

My other grandmother (95) has never used a computer in her life. Her husband used to repair lots of vacuum-tube era electronics, but not computers, until he developed dementia and passed away.
posted by Seeking Direction at 11:44 AM on October 3, 2018


My 66-year-old father is functionally illiterate, so the text-heaviness of the early web was a big enough barrier to keep him from ever becoming an internet user, despite having lived in households with internet connections since 1997 or so. He was with the same manufacturing employee for the last 25 years of his working life, so he never had to apply for a job online, and he deals with his bills at the bank. He gets his news and entertainment from TV and keeps in touch with family by phone.
posted by northernish at 11:46 AM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


While my 82yo mother uses the internet extensively (she Googles anything she doesn't understand, lives on Twitter and Facebook, receives more email than she sends as she prefers texting, and enjoys falling down a rabbit hole of clicking from one article to the next); however, many of her friends (mid-to-late 80s and early 90s) either eschew the internet completely or fail to use it for anything except inbound emails.

Her one friend, 93yo, has an iPad that her daughter gave her, and when she visits her daughter in Florida, she uses it extensively for surfing Facebook and she loves watching videos and liking other people's posts, but refuses to spend the money to have internet access at her own home. She claimed to me that she didn't want to buy a computer, and when I noted that she already had an iPad so she didn't need a computer, she said she hadn't known that, which it's clear she did. Both my mom and I believe she used the "I'm a little old lady and don't understand things" excuse because she doesn't want to spend money for internet, as she's extremely expense-averse. (She's a Depression-era person, and though she could live to 130 or older without having to be concerned about the cost of anything, she won't even go out for a sandwich unless someone treats her.)

Another friend, late 80s, is the sweetest (but least intellectually curious) person I've ever met. When she says something politically (or otherwise) demonstrably false because she heard it somewhere, my mother researches the topic, shows her the proof of the correct answer, and she looks at my mother as if she'd just magically conjured something out of thin air, fascinated but unwilling to learn more. Her husband, a famous physicist, had not been very adept at computers, but he'd been able to surf for anything, and after his demise, she just had no interest in finding out things about the world. She's fine with photos of her grandchildren being emailed to her, but will go without turning on the (very out of date) computer for weeks or months at a time. She has her children handle anything that can't be easily handled by making a phone call.

I have a variety of clients who claim they don't use the internet, but then tell me about spam emails or Facebook videos; it's obvious that some people truly don't understand what the internet is. When I show clients things like Mint or the Kelly Blue Book online or Google Translate, most are happy to embrace it, but still seem unwilling to accept that these things "are" the internet.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 12:20 PM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


SIL simply has no interest in the internet. She's not militant about it, it's just not something she's curious about and she's happy with how she's getting along.

Quoting this as it describes my 70-year-old aunt. My parents are also similar to her; they have the internet but only use it for email and the occasional thing where I send them a link to something. They used to use the Internet as the "question-answerer", but are more likely use Alexa for that now because it's easier for them to simply say "Alexa, who was the star of West Side Story?" than it is for them to remember how to do a Google search for that.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 1:02 PM on October 3, 2018 [1 favorite]


Using Alexa is using the internet.
posted by phunniemee at 1:47 PM on October 3, 2018 [2 favorites]


My recent boss will not use the internet and is quite proud of it. He is above mere mortals. It is policy that if anyone is composing an email they are to double space, print it out before sending, edit the hard copy or if possible have a coworker proof and edit before sending.

His own emails are printed out for him and then he dictates a response, then a draft of the response is printed and he will edit with a red pen using editing symbols he used on a brief stint as a real estate columnist in the 70's. He hired a full time Researcher who researches by googling, printing out results of the googling which he circles in red when he wants more information.

He owns a flip phone which gives a resounding click when he hangs up on people.

He is 70.
posted by readery at 3:54 PM on October 3, 2018 [3 favorites]


I can think of two particular individuals. One is an extremely well-known ship archaeologist in Britain who I think has never used a computer. He was on the board of a project I worked on, and when we had board meetings, we had to be sure to print out the invitation and e-mail it to him. (At the time, he was into his eighties.) We received a typewritten RSVP, by mail obviously. Possibly on a manual typewriter. I think he just...never learned how to use anything more advanced than said typewriter, and never felt any need to do so.

My mother's law partner simply refuses to learn how to use a computer. I've walked him through how to send an e-mail, and he pretty clearly could learn, he just won't. His secretary prints out all of his e-mails, and types up the replies. (I think she drafts them, prints them, he approves, and then she sends, to add another layer of irritating.) It's not great -- I have no idea how he does research without Lexis-Nexus, but he's made it this far. He's a deeply eccentric person, in particular with some hobbies so antiquated I actually don't want to put them down here, for fear he'll be recognized from the description. (Think along the lines of English gentry pasttimes.) Incidentally, this all drives everyone who has to work with him completely bonkers.
posted by kalimac at 7:18 PM on October 3, 2018


Until March 2016, when my 70-year-old mother developed anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis and had to be hospitalized, my stepfather (79 at the time) had never used the Internet. He used the phone and fax for what he needed, and if he did need something through the web, email, etc., my mom did it for him. He had never had a cell phone, let alone a smart phone, until he took over her iPhone during her illness. However, after a bit of anxiety about messing things up, he pretty quickly took to the iPhone and got into the habit of using it not only to make calls but to check email, make online reservations, and do other stuff. Once he didn't have anyone else to help him (because I live 800 miles away, and my sister, who was closer, had a rigid work schedule), he figured it out pretty quickly.

Now that my mom has recovered (itself an interesting story; Susannah Cahalan's memoir Brain on Fire gives some insight into what it was like), he doesn't do much himself, but he knows he can if necessary.
posted by brianogilvie at 7:41 PM on October 3, 2018


My recent boss ...
...sounds like a thoroughly ridiculous person.
posted by uberchet at 6:27 AM on October 4, 2018 [1 favorite]


I want to add another class of people who do not use the internet or a cell phone, people who are subject to FOIL inquiries. I know a Congressman from another district who refuses to use a computer smart phone himself. He will ask his staff to do stuff for him, and he uses a dumb phone, but I think he was burned once (forced to hand over an email he did not want to).
posted by AugustWest at 12:37 PM on October 4, 2018 [2 favorites]


That makes a weird sort of sense, though. Most of us can assume at least the illusion of privacy, and can be relatively certain none of our emails will ever been the subject of a news story.
posted by uberchet at 1:26 PM on October 4, 2018


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