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20% of U.S. Population Has Never Used Email

timothy posted more than 6 years ago | from the not-necessarily-against-their-will dept.

Communications 279

Ezratrumpet writes "A recent PC World article notes that 20 percent of the U.S. population has never sent an email. Does this number over- or underestimate the actual number of people who know nothing of email? What are the implications of this statistic to our society? Or are these people just Luddites who mourned the demise of the telegraph and have also never used a telephone?"

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279 comments

Seems about right (-1, Redundant)

LaskoVortex (1153471) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451714)

Friggin' first post and I don't have anything to say about it.

Re:Seems about right (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23451792)

20% of America doesn't use e-mail because they don't have anything to say via e-mail. Consider the same logic with regard to first posts ;)

Oh that's nothing (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23451990)

I've never read a single article posted on slashdot. Yet I often make aggressive and insightful comments on their content.

A life without spam (4, Funny)

LoadWB (592248) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451722)

So there are 20% of Americans who wonder why in the world Hormel would be sending canned ham to people, and still complain about the amount of junk mail they receive via the USPS.

Amazing.

Households, not population (5, Informative)

RonnyJ (651856) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451724)

It's 18% of all households, not 20% of the US population.

Re:Households, not population (1)

LoadWB (592248) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451728)

Darnit, I am going to have to RTFA. I want to know if they send and receive text messages.

Re:Households, not population (4, Funny)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451810)

Darnit, I am going to have to RTFA. I want to know if they send and receive text messages.
HI I R NIGERIAN, I HAVE $200K, NEED UR BANK DETAILS FOR TRANSACTION, HURRY, U WILL B RICH!

Re:Households, not population (5, Insightful)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452138)

Just as a side: When I wrote this I did so in humor, but it does hold an element of interest. People who have never used e-mail are going to be far more susceptible to scams that those who have used e-mail have become well aware of and learned to ignore. The art will be in perpetrating them over forms such as SMS, which allows only short messages, successfully. I would say 1/5 people a reasonably large target population.

Re:Households, not population (2, Insightful)

hal2814 (725639) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452430)

Yeah... You are aware that scams like this easily predate the invention of e-mail, right? Scams are scams. Even if you've never seen this particular one before, it's easy enough to spot from a mile away. Some people are going to fall for this kind of thing but I see no reason to believe that like email users before them and phone call/telegraph/letter recipients before them the vast majority of those 20%ers will spot the scam for what it is right off the bat.

Re:Households, not population (3, Interesting)

ubuwalker31 (1009137) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452492)

According to http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats14.htm [internetworldstats.com] 71.4% of the entire US population uses the internet.

Assuming that the 6.8% of the population is under 5 years old and doesn't use the internet, and assuming that the 12.4% of the population is over 65 doesn't use the internet, leaves about 9.4% of the population unaccounted for.

Also, what about the 14 - 25 year old demographic who are using SMS rather than email?

So, I guess what I am saying here is that if only 71.4% of the US has access to the internet, how is it possible that 18% of all households don't use email?

So? (5, Insightful)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451740)

What are the implications of this statistic to our society?
None. If people needed to use e-mail then they would use e-mail. The summary seems to imply that if you've never sent an e-mail there is something wrong with you or you fail at life. I can think of plenty of careers that don't even involve working with computers, and some people like to enjoy a more "disconnected" lifestyle.

Or are these people just Luddites who mourned the demise of the telegraph and have also never used a telephone?
I don't know, TFA doesn't seem to mention that. Why don't you accuse them of being illiterate freaks or something while you're at it?

From TFA:

"Many people just don't see a reason to use computers and do not associate technology with the needs and demands of their daily lives," Barrett said.
Shocker.

Re:So? (2, Insightful)

penix1 (722987) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451842)

If people needed to use e-mail then they would use e-mail. The summary seems to imply that if you've never sent an e-mail there is something wrong with you or you fail at life. I can think of plenty of careers that don't even involve working with computers, and some people like to enjoy a more "disconnected" lifestyle.


Absolutely! I do use technology and still won't use email unless I have no choice (for example, communication from some business that leaves no other option). There are far better ways to communicate besides digging through mounds of spam for that occasional one from the "Luddite" that insists on using email. Sure, you can bend over backwards to filter out spam but why go through the bother when there are better means to communicate...

Re:So? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23451936)

Better is a subjective term.

Email is an excellent form for communicating with others where there is no need for instant response. That way the other parties can respond when they're ready to, and not when you demand it. In the workplace this means that they don't have to drop what they're doing to give you their attention, allowing them to continue focusing on their tasks.

Most other forms of 'better' communication are great if you must have an immediate response, but the most common ones (face to face, phone, insant messaging) all require the other party to stop what they're doing and give you their attention at that moment, whether they have the response you're after or not. From a productivity standpoint this is rarely a good thing.

The trick is to find the best communication method for what you're trying to achieve, and take into consideration the other parties requirements and ability to respond as well.

As to TFA... I didn't read it, but there doesn't seem to be anything abnormal or surprising that some people haven't used email. I never learned to drive a car. Does that make me abnormal?

Re:So? (1)

penix1 (722987) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452056)

Yes, "better" is subjective but given both the hassle of email spam / Bad Things(TM) and the fact that most home users (which is the subject group here) have a very limited set of contacts, email is the least useful of the list of possibilities. You are coming from this from a business perspective where I am coming from a home perspective. Even in a business perspective, I would rather deal with a business one-on-one real-time even if that means they tell me they will contact me later with my answer that they don't know off hand in email. It is called "customer relations" in most circles. The point is, for me the spammers have won. I detest email to the point of only checking it when I know something is coming in.

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23452114)

> [...] but the most common ones (face to face, phone, insant messaging) all require the other party to stop what they're doing and give you their attention at that moment, [...]

Don't tell me, your messenger does not support offline messages and you have no answering machine... Or that if someone writes you, the window pops up right in the middle and in's minimized or closed in the first place...

Besides: Answering machine and e-mail are the same here. I just wish i could set the away mode of it (the *answering machine*) in my messenger.
(My answering machine behaves no realistic, that poeple ask me if i have a butler :P)

Re:So? (1, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451846)

The argument could be made that if you aren't using e-mail, you're using the post, and as post goes by car or airplane it results in more carbon emissions. But as with all global warming issues, things are rarely so simple.

Re:So? (5, Interesting)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451904)

Why does everything come down to carbon emissions lately, and what does that have to do with the summary. But sure, I'll bite. You're using e-mail. The entire time you're writing it you're sitting at a computer using between 150W and 300W (typical). Probably half a dozen devices between your computer and the destination server are responsible for transmitting the packets over long distances (your modem, the various routers and mail servers). The NSA intercepts your e-mail, automatically runs AI on it in a massive data farm, which uses quite a lot of CPU time. Meanwhile a letter is read with zero power emissions at both ends, and it is transported with tens of thousands of other letters, the inefficient part of the transport being only near the local destination.

But honestly, I just pulled that out of my ass, and so did you, and probably so will anyone else who replies. But that will still be more interesting than the questions raised in the summary..

Re:So? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23452062)

Except, in this day and age, you're probably going to write said letter on a computer. :-)

And then you're going to print it, which uses all kinds of resources.

Also the argument about scale can be made on the Internet too. It's not like there are 20 routers in between you and your destination solely for the purpose of delivering *your* e-mail.

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23452118)

Right, so here we are discussing carbon emissions with little to no background information to go on for either side. That's how most discussions of carbon emissions go, fair enough. But nobody on this thread is going to be proven any more correct than the other because neither can produce accurate data supporting both sides of the argument, which is necessary to fairly compare them.

Sure, the argument about scale can be made on the Internet too. Which scales better? No data. And I can immediately counter with: Well, what are all those routers doing with their CPU and transmission cycles when they're not running at full capacity? Wasted cycles! And you can counter with: What about delivery vans half full? It goes on.

The problem with arguments around carbon emissions is that they're usually considered with narrowed vision, not nearly deeply enough, and with data that doesn't actually cover all the bases.

Re:So? (3, Funny)

JPLemme (106723) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452360)

Don't forget the CPU cycles the NSA needs to decrypt your email before they can analyze it. Remember: encrypting your email isn't just unpatriotic; it also wastes Mother Earth's natural resources.

Re:So? (2, Insightful)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451860)

If people needed to use e-mail then they would use e-mail. The summary seems to imply that if you've never sent an e-mail there is something wrong with you or you fail at life. I can think of plenty of careers that don't even involve working with computers, and some people like to enjoy a more "disconnected" lifestyle.

I, for one, do like to enjoy a more "disconnected" lifestyle. That's why I disconnect my cell phone from time to time, and occasionally leave my e-mail boxes unattended for a few days. There's no reason to do the obsessive checking of inboxes all the time that some people seem to enjoy.


However, computers are very useful tools in *any* lifestyle and they help save a lot of time and resources. Living without computers and e-mail these days is nearly as cumbersome as being illiterate. I think the reason why some people never learn to use computers is exactly the same why many people never learn to read: nobody ever taught them, so they don't know what they are missing.

Re:So? (3, Insightful)

amRadioHed (463061) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452012)

Maybe it's more indicative of my own personality flaws, but I sorta wish I didn't have electronics in my life all the time. Realistically the vast majority of time I spent watching TV or surfing the web is wasted time. If I didn't have those always available to me for instant gratification I would spend more time on my less passive pastimes such as reading and studying and in the end I'm sure I would find that to be far more rewarding.

Instead I'm fairly lazy and so here I am yet again posting on slashdot.

Re:So? (5, Insightful)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452036)

However, computers are very useful tools in *any* lifestyle and they help save a lot of time and resources. Living without computers and e-mail these days is nearly as cumbersome as being illiterate.
Let me temporarily step into the shoes of Joe Shmoe. I get up in the morning, brush my teeth, take a shower, get dressed and head out to my construction job. I work hard for 8-9 hours. During the day I grab some coffee and some lunch. I listen to the radio. I come home to my wife at night, picking up some groceries on the way. We have dinner together. I go hang out with the guys at the bar for a while, we chat about the game on TV and whether we like Hillary or Obama better. I head back home, help put the kids to bed and turn in.

Why do I need to use a computer, and what is the big difference it's going to make in my life?

I often feel sad that I'm so tied to the computer and similar devices - there are plenty of people out there who I feel live a fuller life than I do simply because they're not attached so heavily to computers. While we're sitting here writing to each other on Slashdot about people who don't use e-mail, others who perhaps don't use e-mail are spending time with their families and friends. I would not say I'm envious of people who don't use e-mail, but I can see the positive side of it.

Re:So? (1)

mh1997 (1065630) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452136)

Let me temporarily step into the shoes of Joe Shmoe. I get up in the morning, brush my teeth, take a shower, get dressed and head out to my construction job. I work hard for 8-9 hours. During the day I grab some coffee and some lunch. I listen to the radio. I come home to my wife at night, picking up some groceries on the way. We have dinner together. I go hang out with the guys at the bar for a while, we chat about the game on TV and whether we like Hillary or Obama better. I head back home, help put the kids to bed and turn in. Why do I need to use a computer, and what is the big difference it's going to make in my life? Let me slip into my life for a minute. Skipping ahead because the starts of the day are the same, I am at my job as an electrical engineer. I use a computer all day everyday at work. I get stupid time wasting emails described as corporate memos, yet I manage to do my job. During my down-time at work, I am allowed to surf the net, I read and occasionaly post on slashdot, I read the local paper, and I check the weather. Skipping ahead because the end of the day is the same. I go to bed.

Why do I need to use a computer at home? What big difference is it going to make in my life other than take time I could be spending with my wife and daughter?

If it wasn't Sunday mornings before the wife and daughter get up, I wouldn't have a computer at home - We have no need.

This wasn't always the case, I am sitting within arms reach of 4 computers that won't be turned on in months, we disconnected the cell phones, we turned off the TV, and now for electronic entertainment we listen to XM Radio. Otherwise, we have been having a blast talking and playing together.

Re:So? (2, Interesting)

MalHavoc (590724) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452314)

Why do I need to use a computer, and what is the big difference it's going to make in my life?
And also, how much would having an electronic device diminish the enjoyment of some of those things you mentioned? If I grab coffee and lunch some place during the day, the last thing I want is to be interrupted by a pager or blackberry or cellphone while I am enjoying it. And how many people have no real downtime at life because they are tied to mobile devices? Not necessarily because they are workaholics, but because their job mandates that they carry these things. I'm not tied to a mobile device, don't own a land phone, have no TV, and keep my cellphone turned off most of the time. Yet, I work in an IT field. I would be interested in the measures that other IT-types take to protect their "downtime" from the intrusion of technology.

Re:So? (4, Insightful)

DarkOx (621550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452348)

let me add some of the parts you left out of Joe Shmoe's life.

Saturday morning:
I noticed the car was running funny ever since my last fillup and now the check engine light is on. Being a pretty talented mechanic I have checked everything over and it all looked fine, but the spark plug on number 3 cylinder was fouled. I have cleaned and now the engine is running smooth. That damn light is still on though. I'd really like to just reset it and see if it comes back. I am sure there is an easy way and that that Google thing everyone is talking about could tell me but since I don't have a computer I am going to have to spend 2 hours making phone calls to local shops and the manufactures tech center until I can find someone who will tell me how to do this, oh well there goes Saturday.

Sunday Morning:
On the way home from warship the wife tells me she has notices our savings account has not been growing as fast lately. She is concerned about our future retirement and sending the kids to college. What are we spending so much money on all of a sudden? She and I would like to know. I keep pretty good records and receipts. I can tell you what are balances are without calling the bank, ok I don't know exactly when that last interest payment got credited. My paper ledger does a great job. Its odd though combing my eyes over it I don't see any unusal expense. Have gas and groceries just gone up that much? Well let me get out the calculator and start totaling those specif items up over the past few months and then flip back to this time last year and do the same. Yep that is where the money went. That only took half an hour, not to shabby, although Jim at work said he has this MickySoft Cash program that lets him do that stuff instantly on his computer. It might be nice I don't know.

I have no problem with people not wanting to use computers. Its a choice and this is a free society. I do think pretty much Adult living in the United States could extract some value from owning one and knowing how to use it. Maybe you don't need e-mail specifically or anyone one application in particular for that matter depending on who you are what you do. That is fine too. I would even venture to guess the average machine from 1990 and the software to go with it is plenty for most people, at least if it was still in good working order. Lets no even pretend though that anyone not living an extremely exceptional life style like monasticism can't find something to offer them in the last 20 years of personal computing.

I still you FrameWork under the does emulator on my Linux box for most of my financial record keeping. It does exactly what I need. I have macros to import csv files from my bank and the like, just like quicken. I wrote those when I was to young and poor to by that software otherwise I might have.

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23452382)

I'm in Japan at the moment. Most of my friends, family, etc. are in Canada. Without email, I'd be spending a fortune (or not communicating at all because of cost) to maintain contact. Email is indeed essential to worldwide communications. If Joe Shmoe is content with his life, so be it. But life and the world should be much larger (and hopefully will be, for Joe Shmoe's children).
And by the way, I DO NOT carry a phone. Haven't for years. Email is at MY convenience, and the only way to go. :-) Ditch your phone, and your life will be free of interruptions by telemarketers during dinner, etc.

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23452444)

3g/wcdma phone and a gmail app / pop3/imap checking.

Phone set to vibrate when someone in my contact list is calling, set to forwarding to voicemail otherwise.

Welcome to the new millenium.

Re:So? (1)

Alphasite (1261864) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452464)

I'd suggest buying a PDA so you can keep a schedule.

It would warn you if you forget to get to the bar with your friends and it will help you keep track of Hillary vs Obama debate. It will also help you remember you have a wife and kids so you don't forget.

Email will also be useful to keep you away from certain statistics and be part of that wonderful 80%.

Re:So? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23452042)

However, computers are very useful tools in *any* lifestyle
It occurs to me that you may not have tried as many lifestyles as you think you have.

Re:So? (1)

dbcad7 (771464) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451868)

I didn't even bother with reading the article after the summary.. I have no mod points , but I agree with your assessment., I would also add that regardless of the "easy enough for my grandma to use" that is often talked about here.. the reality is most grand parents don't use a computer.. I also know plenty of people at work who use computers at work, but just don't have the interest in owning one at home. It doesn't make them Luddites or technophobic it just means they don't have an interest in it.... I like watching their eyes glaze when I bring up something like linux.

Articles attitude explains everything (3, Insightful)

cliffski (65094) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451890)

"Or are these people just Luddites who mourned the demise of the telegraph and have also never used a telephone?"

Its that sort of arrogant crap that makes people vow to never use a computer. Some people have no need for a particular tech. I NEVER send text messages, they seem a waste of time. I don't use RSS and have no idea what twitter is. I never use myspace and don't have a facebook page.

So fucking sue me.

This infantile attitude of "I use tech X and thus so should you" just shows the immaturity of the poster, not that they are in any sense 'better' than those not using that technology.

Re:Articles attitude explains everything (1, Troll)

JockTroll (996521) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451942)

What do you expect from loserboy nerds? They believe that by virtue of them buying some tech and using it, they are better than other people. It's not stuff they made, it's not stuff they designed, to use it they have to pay a service and still they think that this makes them any smarter.

That's why we rightfully beat them up, harshly. We twist their arms so that they can't jerk off anymore. We bash their heads against walls, we drown them in toilets, and then we shit on their faces.

Re:Articles attitude explains everything (2, Insightful)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452076)

Some people have no need for a particular tech.


A growing share of the job and consumer market have e-mail as preferred or sole communication method - or at least for the initial trigger. I'm willing to bet that 20% will continue to evaporate.

Re:Articles attitude explains everything (3, Insightful)

Oligonicella (659917) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452188)

From article:

One-half of those who have never used e-mail are over 65, and 56 percent had no schooling beyond high school.

What do you want to be there's a significant overlap in those two groups? What do you want do bet that those over 65 aren't concerned about e-mail being the sole communication method of either job or consumer markets? That 'evaporation' will be simple attrition and won't support any conclusions at all.

Re:Articles attitude explains everything (0, Troll)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452132)

Get off the internets, grandpa.

Re:Articles attitude explains everything (1)

jrothwell97 (968062) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452158)

I have to agree with you there. True, I do send text messages, emails and use Twitter, but I still use paper mail, and telephony (be it via VoIP or an old-fashioned phone). And I steadfastly refuse to use anything like Spazbook or Myface. What the point of them actually is remains a mystery to me.

I don't condemn people who don't use the above technologies. It's their own decision.

True, I tell them about the benefits of having an e-mail address (instant-ish delivery, free), but I don't condemn them for not having one.

Re:Articles attitude explains everything (1)

nfk (570056) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452196)

Its that sort of arrogant crap that makes people vow to never use a computer.

That's a bit childish too. "I really need a computer, but I need to spite those arrogant geeks, so there."

Legal reasons.... (1)

Hankapobe (1290722) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452356)

Its that sort of arrogant crap that makes people vow to never use a computer. Some people have no need for a particular tech. So fucking sue me. This infantile attitude of "I use tech X and thus so should you" just shows the immaturity of the poster, not that they are in any sense 'better' than those not using that technology.

And what folks have missed is that there are a few folks who don't want what they in writing - even email - unless necessary. I am currently working in a place that will not send emails for that reason - we only call.

And please, nobody respond with a contradictory statement unless you're a member of the BAR somewhere. i.e. Your comment starts with "IAAL".

Re:Articles attitude explains everything (2, Funny)

Alphasite (1261864) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452502)

I'm sorry, you don't belong here. You lied in the registration form.

The licence agreement for Slashdot surely states "I admit I'm a geek or nerd with little or not social life, I therefore know twitter, use RSS and send at least two text messages a day. I hate Microsoft (having any version of Windows is allowed, but should be denied publicly, if you are busted using it Slashdot denies any knoledge or responsabilite and will not be hold responsible)"

Exactly (1)

dreamchaser (49529) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451898)

My next door neighbor owns a small contracting business. He himself is a carpenter by trade. He uses Excel and Autocad and surfs the web a little for news once in awhile, but he doesn't use email, or IM for that matter. The files he gets from his architect are very large to begin with and are usually delivered on a USB flashdrive. He has an email address that came with his cable Internet. He just doesn't use it and doesn't seem to need it.

Re:So? (3, Insightful)

servognome (738846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451980)

What are the implications of this statistic to our society?

None. If people needed to use e-mail then they would use e-mail. The summary seems to imply that if you've never sent an e-mail there is something wrong with you or you fail at life. I can think of plenty of careers that don't even involve working with computers, and some people like to enjoy a more "disconnected" lifestyle.
There are in fact implications to our society. Rather than look at it as a flaw in the people, look at it from the point of view that the flaws of email does not meet the communication needs of those people. By learning the reasons email doesn't meet the communication needs of a significant portion of the population, you can either expand the capabilities of email, or design new systems to address those gaps.

Re:So? (2)

DigitAl56K (805623) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452048)

By learning the reasons email doesn't meet the communication needs of a significant portion of the population, you can either expand the capabilities of email, or design new systems to address those gaps.
Those gaps don't exist. If they did, 20% of the population would be working on a way to solve them. This goes back to the original point: People will use e-mail if they need to.

E-mail is not the only solution to communication. It does not fulfill all communication needs and it does not need to fulfill all communication needs. Does everyone you know own a TV? Lots of my friends choose not to, for different reasons. That does not mean that the capabilities of TV must be expanded or that new systems must be designed, because it is not mandatory that everyone watches TV.

Re:So? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23452146)

By learning the reasons email doesn't meet the communication needs of a significant portion of the population, you can either expand the capabilities of email, or design new systems to address those gaps.

Why does email need to meet the communication needs of the entire population? I'd be willing to bet that a significant fraction of the public does not use postal mail-should we also look at ways to expand snail mail to address those gaps? Cell phones? IRC?

The parent's point is that all forms of communication, let alone all technologies, are not appropriate for all people. It's possible that some of the 20% of non-email users don't use email out of fear, ignorance or inability, but many of them are aware of the technology and simply don't see the need to use it.

Re:So? (1)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452050)

The summary seems to imply that if you've never sent an e-mail there is something wrong with you or you fail at life.


Without e-mail you would depend on and pay for an agent for the most trivial purchases. You have the inability to book your own e-tickets for flights and events, to even consider thousands of useful on-line retailers for your shopping. Telephone and paper support for some of these tasks are being reduced and might not even exist for new businesses.

So you are failing to adopt. Your ways will eventually become extinct. You do not take advantage of decades of progress.

On the other hand, the Amish are still alive. And there are still some uncontacted bronze-age tribes in the Amazon. Most of those tribes are nearly extinct though, so in the long-run it's just not in your best interest to ignore change.

Re:So? (1)

Strake (982081) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452106)

Everyone implicitly chooses a level of technology to use. Even the Amish build dwellings - this is a form of technology. My grandmother owns a computer and uses it mainly for e-mail, which she absolutely loves. She has no need for instant messaging or the like. Such is the great thing about technology - one can choose which technologies to use.

Shocked?! (5, Informative)

sysusr (971503) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451778)

According to http://www.internetworldstats.com/am/us.htm [internetworldstats.com] :

Internet Usage Statistics
215,935,529 Internet users as of Dec/07, 71.7% of the population, according to Nielsen//NetRatings

Latest Population Estimate
301,139,947 population for 2007, according to the Census Bureau.
If 28.3% of the population aren't internet users, why is it a surprise that 20% haven't sent an email?

Re:Shocked?! (1)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451806)

If 28.3% of the population aren't internet users, why is it a surprise that 20% haven't sent an email?
And if almost the same proportion of the population is illiterate, surely they have better things to do than write emails (such as learning how to read/write in the first place).

Re:Shocked?! (1)

TypoNAM (695420) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451818)

Nielsen? As in the same damn Nielsen company that's responsible for basically all the good shows that people actually love getting canceled and the utter crap that keeps getting season renews that is basically watched by nobody except brainless zombies around...

So I assume they only accounted those who use the internet also use their television watch boxes and then used some obscure multiplier to get that number, right?
Yeah I'm going to believe their statistics alright.

Re:Shocked?! (1, Offtopic)

Dr_Barnowl (709838) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451874)

Nielsen isn't responsible for the cancellation of decent television.

The brainless zombies are, because they are in the majority.

The network executives are, because they only look at the bottom line, and the bottom line is brainless zombies.

Lobby your government for a national public broadcaster that has a mandate to inform, educate, and entertain [bbc.co.uk] if you want a change.

Re:Shocked?! (1)

asc99c (938635) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452192)

The brainless zombies are, because they are in the majority.
The brainless zombies are, because they are running the cable companies.

Another advertisement? (1)

sticks_us (150624) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451790)

TFA links here [networkworld.com] , which is presumably a podcast of some Lotus Notes dude (insert obligatory Notes joke here) pushing the idea that "that collaboration tools such as e-mail, telephones and desktops will die at the hands of unified communications."

So, what's the angle? They're trying to tell us that since a whopping 20% of society has never used email, we should all sell our computers and buy a LotusBerry(tm)?

Pfffffffft.

Re:Another advertisement? (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452082)

He's probably right over the long term... in the short term we have what we have. email is on the downslope because spam killed it (a combination of sms and facebook seems to be more popular at the moment) but it's all fashion until something sticks long term, and that's not predictable until it happens.

How then... (2, Funny)

FinchWorld (845331) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451812)

...will they 1|\|cr3A53 7H3 51Z3 0F 7H3R3 /\/\3/\/\83r?

Err... (2)

ilovegeorgebush (923173) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451814)

What are the implications of this statistic to our society?
Err, Jesus - absolutely nothing. Calm the fuck down?

Re:Err... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23452004)

Err, Jesus - absolutely nothing. Calm the fuck down?
Unless you were going for deliberate parody, there's something decidedly ironic about this comment.

(But then, I'm not entirely sure what I should expect from someone named "ilovegeorgebush", one way or another.)

Far, far worse: (5, Funny)

johannesg (664142) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451816)

Just about 100% of all young, single females have never sent email to me!

Re:Far, far worse: (1)

decken (883938) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451854)

That's weird, because I get plenty of email from rich, newly-widowed heiresses.

Re:Far, far worse: (1)

PeterKraus (1244558) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451952)

And you're like 90 yo, with $3M in bank and 40C body temperatures, right?

Re:Far, far worse: (1)

apt-get moo (988257) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451882)

Even worse, those who wrote me only posted links to web pages where I should enter my credit card number.

Re:Far, far worse: (1)

johannesg (664142) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452024)

Just about 100% of all young, single females have never sent email to me!
...except a few from the Ukraine, and I think they weren't interested in *me* so much.

"Just about" (1)

TheVelvetFlamebait (986083) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452150)

Pfft. Lucky.

And nothing of value was lost. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23451826)

Really nothing of value is lost to them or to us because of this fact.

nevertheless they are indirectly affected ... (2, Informative)

crazybit (918023) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451828)

... by e-mail and technology.

On the other side, most people that doesn't know how to use e-mail ask techies they know for help.

I have already forgotten how many mails I have sent for my mom and aunts.

50% of the population is below average (1)

Kupfernigk (1190345) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451830)

Surely, given that only about 60% of the population is capable of writing a grammatical letter, this is hardly a surprising statistic?

87% of statistics are made up (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23452066)

Since some people are very likely to be average, it's very likely less than 50% are below or above average.

Is this what slashdot has become? (2)

AbRASiON (589899) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451856)

20% of the US population hasn't used email?
Good lord who cares!

I bet 85% of the US population have never been in a war.
I bet 100% of the US population are under 19' tall.
At least 20% of the US population will never see this post.
Hell I wouldn't be surprised if 10% of the US population don't even own a cell phone.

It's rare that I would complain about the news here but whoever approved this AND whoever submitted it, wtf, really? Just WTF.

It was a Phone Survey (5, Insightful)

Metallic Vortex (1281782) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451928)

The article says that it was a phone survey. This means: 1: The people are obviously not "Luddites who mourned the demise of the telegraph and have also never used a telephone", since they used a phone to answer the survey questions. 2: Most of the tech-savvy people I know don't even have land lines. They use cell phones or things like Skype, which are difficult to survey for various reasons. The people who go those routes have generally used email. Therefore, the sample population was already skewed toward people who wouldn't have used email anyway.

Re:It was a Phone Survey (1)

Rob Kaper (5960) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452094)

Therefore, the sample population was already skewed toward people who wouldn't have used email anyway.


Not necessarily: the sample population also misses all the true Luddites, who wouldn't even have a phone to answer the survey. :)

Re:It was a Phone Survey (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452104)

Not having a land line is a rarity... cell phones are still way more expensive to run, and for skype you need internet, which pretty much mandates having a phone as (a) dsl runs over a phone line, so (duh) you need a phone line to run it over, and (b) cable companies don't like selling packages without phones (it can be done but is hassle).

There's also absolutely nothing that says a phone survey couldn't have sampled a number of cell phones - in fact I'd expect them to as otherwise you limit the samples to people who are at home when the company calls (which skews the results).

10 years.... (5, Insightful)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451960)

To put this into some form of perspective, strange here on Slashdot I know, but in reality for most people internet became a potential reality around 1998 (AOL going onto the internet from its walled garden) or at best 1996. So maybe another way to look at this study would be

From zero to 80% in 10/12/15 years, how the US has embraced email

Sure lots of the people here on Slashdot might have had an email account in the 80s, but that is an insignificant minority. I actually think that it is pretty impressive at 80% penetration given some of the literacy issues in the US education system.

Re:10 years.... (1)

Tom90deg (1190691) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452350)

That is an excellent point, but as they say, negative news sells. Do you really think we'd be having this discussion if the article was about how great it was that E-mail has become part of society so quickly, 80% in 12 years! Of course not. But turn that same stat negative, and now you've got a story. No one cares that 95% of homes fail to burn down.

Demographics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23451964)

It would be interesting to break this down by age and income. Older people probably see less need for email than younger ones. People with little money probably have more pressing matters they need to take care of than internet, such as where their next meal is coming from.

Maybe they did a cost/benefit analysis? (2, Insightful)

ThreeGigs (239452) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451968)

Sending a snail mail letter requires no major initial investment.

Sending your first email requires an investment to purchase your computer and subscribe to an ISP's plan.

Making a phone call requires a minimal investment in a phone, and a monthly fee of about the same price as internet access.

Sending an SMS usually requires either a 1 or 2 year commitment to a cellular provider's service plan, or the purchase of a phone for use with pre-paid minutes.

So, if these 20% want or need to provide a written record of communication, they can use snail mail at a cost of 50 cents (plus an initial investment of a dollar for a pen), or they can spend $500 on a computer and $20 a month on an ISP.

If they want a faster response than a snail mail, they *pick up the phone*. Which trumps email and IM on speed if more than one question/response is needed.

Or they use an SMS or voicemail or an answering machine if the intended recipient isn't available.

For "Joe Average", the cost/benefit ratio of email is absolutely horrible compared to other forms of communication. And since there really isn't any pressing *need* for them to have email, they don't make that investment. From anecdotal observations, I'd also say that another 20% of the population *with* computers and internet access *don't use email* on any regular basis. They use the internet for entertainment and information *not* communication.

As for me, I've been using email since the late 80's, early 90's. However up until 2005, I had *never* sent an SMS. And until mid 2006 when I had a reason to use SMS more, I had only sent maybe 3 SMSes.

So, for a service (email) that has no real value to many, has many alternatives, and requires a sizeable initial investment, is it any surprise that 20% of the population hasn't bothered with it? One wonders if perhaps they're the smarter ones.

Re:Maybe they did a cost/benefit analysis? (1)

Anne Thwacks (531696) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452014)

Sending your first email requires an investment to purchase your computer and subscribe to an ISP's plan.

Maybe where you live, but 50c in an Internet cafe will do it for the rest of us.

In most other parts of the world, you can send e-mails from your mobile phone for free if you can be bothered

Re:Maybe they did a cost/benefit analysis? (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452130)

If you have a mobile you send SMS, because you already have all the information you need - their phone number.

Email is still a losing proposition here:

1. Only business plans actually give you one with your mobile phone, and that costs extra anyway. You won't be able to use your ISPs one because if it's configured correctly they won't allow connections to their SMTP server from outside their network.
2. You nearly always have to configure it manually, which means knowing what an SMTP and IMAP server actually are (POP on a phone is a loser for a start - they don't have the storage for it).
3. This assumes that the recipient (a) has an email address, and (b) you know what it actually is.
4. Email goes over your data plan - which costs extra. SMS is normally free these days.

And 50c in an internet cafe? Where? All the ones I've seen make you buy time in hourly chunks for about $10 or so.

I'd expect it to be higher (3, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | more than 6 years ago | (#23451984)

What proportion of the population is under 10?

How about over 60?

These groups are overwhelmingly not emailers (yes I know a few members of either of these groups will trump up "I do" - you've self-selected so you're not representative)

Once you take these groups out, you probably have about 80% of the population. I'd have to say that I doubt if all, or even close to all, the remainder have used email. Therefore I assume the total of never-emailed is higher than the 20% cited.

However, in the grand scheme of things, so what? People can lead full and happy lives without technology. Hard as it may be for the tech-obessed to even consider it, not everyone is like them.

HAHAHA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23452032)

These people don't know how to use something I and other people use frequently. WHAT A BUNCH OF IDIOTS!

poverty part of the cause? (4, Interesting)

DMoylan (65079) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452038)

from wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poverty_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

Poverty in the United States is cyclical in nature with roughly 12% to 15% living below the federal poverty line at any given point in time, and roughly 40% falling below the poverty line at some time within a 10 year time span.

if you are living below the poverty line then a computer and the increasingly large amount of power it uses are a unavailable luxury.

Re:poverty part of the cause? (1)

galactic-ac (1197151) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452218)

That was my thought the second I saw the headline. I am stunned that more readers didn't have the same response. I live in a major US city with tends of thousands of residents living well below the poverty line, and for most, a basic level of technology literacy is entirely unattainable. Fortunately, we have a thriving public library system here which recognized the need early and provided many public Internet terminals years ago.

Re:poverty part of the cause? (2, Insightful)

bwalling (195998) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452386)

I'm not the least bit surprised. I work with some NGOs that provide skill training to those in poverty, and nearly none of the people I know outside of those organizations realize that within 6 miles of their homes, there are thousands upon thousands of people living in poverty and rampant crime (aside from making jokes like "don't go in there - you'll get shot"). These people often can't read, have no education past middle school, and have no skills to use for employment. Most people just drive around these areas, having never really even thought about what's down the streets they never turn onto. People like to cling to the attitude that people in poverty are just milking the system and don't want out, but I guarantee you that within a short drive of where you live there are people in poverty that not only want out, but are working hard at it. You show up there offering to teach them to read or teach them basic interviewing skills or help them pass the GED and you will be inspired by how hard they work. And, you will gain some perspective on how fortunate you are to have been born into the situation you were with the skills and talents you have.

Reality Check (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23452058)

Wake up ! The USA is a country where 5% of its black men are in jail. I would guess most slashdotters never go out of their affluent neighbourhoods and see the poverty of "the other side of the tracks". There is a huge divide in the USA between the "haves" and the "have-nots", and this is just one manifestation of that fact. I'm just surprised that the figure is not a bit higher, given the poverty and huge inequalities in the so-called "land of the free".

Why call them Luddites? (4, Insightful)

Secrity (742221) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452074)

Why are people who see no need to have a computer being called Luddites? I don't know that any of these people are opposed to progress, they simply don't have access to email equipment or don't use email even if they have access.

My mom and dad are definitely not Luddites, my mom used to be a Cobol programmer and my dad taught me electronics when I was small; they simply don't see any need for a computer in their home. They have cell phones, a 5.1 channel sound system, and DirectTV; but no computer.

When people see no need for televisions in their homes, should they also be called Luddites?

No surprise (2, Insightful)

theeddie55 (982783) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452098)

especially when you consider that about 12% of the population is under 10 years old and 16% of the popluation is over 65. a majority of these people are not going to be sending emails.

So what... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23452102)

I'm sure there would be the same majority, or more, that have never used snail mail before either...

I for one have never used an envelope, have no idea how much a stamp costs or how to send a letter.

I'm 19, the new generation eh.

Email is broken (0, Offtopic)

markpapadakis (115698) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452108)

Sooner rather than later we have to realize that email is broken. SMTP was not designed with the kind of functionality that would deal with that the academics and researchers who conceived it never, perhaps, expected would happen.

Spammers abuse and take advantage of the shortcomings of the protocol to no end.

All the heuristic filters of the world combined with all forms of statistical analysis ( Bayesian filtering, etc) can only do that much and that's not forgetting the false positives that cause email we care about being flagged and discarded as spam.

The right people should design the successor to SMTP taking into account the problems related to spam, worms and whatnot ( security as a whole ), the simplicity of the existing SMTP protocol and start building a new architecture of servers and clients around it. Otherwise its always going to a be miss or hit case ( just like it is with those spam filters ).

Re:Email is broken (1)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452254)

Actually, SMTP auth + SPF are the only tools you need to get rid of spam. Real servers only accept your mail if you have authenticated (this solves open relays), and dubious servers will trigger an SPF check on the receiving end (this solves botnets), thereby eliminating what little spam had got through.

Email is only part of the story (1)

Dr. Faustroll (745092) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452110)

More interestingly, the article notes that the percentage of US households not connected to the Internet has dropped from 29% in 2006 to 18% in 2008. While it's impossible to tell from just two data points whether the rate of adoption will remain the same, increase, or level off in the next few years, it's probably a safe bet to assume that disconnected households will become a true rarity in the near future.

Doing something right? (1)

American Scum (1126015) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452126)

If I ever get to the point where I have enough to work on, and have my business connections set in a way that doesn't require the computer - though a secretary and accountant may need them - then I'd consider myself to be doing something right. I can, and do, use e-mail because my days aren't productive -enough- .

Choice? (4, Insightful)

argStyopa (232550) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452164)

The summary, even leaving aside its tone, is flawed in that it seems to presuppose this is by choice.

I think people underestimate the amount of poverty - even in the US, where the official definition of poor still most often includes obesity, a car, 2 televisions, airconditioning, and other things seen as luxuries across most of the world.

If you have a family of 4, and are making a combined income of ~$30k/year, and have payments to make for housing/car/food/medical, you might be stretching to pay the PHONE bill much less have luxury money to spend on frivolities like a web connection. And yes, they are frivolities: if all of your friends are in similar financial circumstances, you have even less incentive because they aren't going to be online EITHER. Finally, even the web is squeezing these folks out - browsing by modem SUCKS, and it seems that more and more sites are building fancy flash front-ends that take minutes to d/l at modem speeds.

I'm surprised it's not higher (1)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452172)

Between old people that are afraid of new things and illiterates and people simply too poor to have a computer, I'm a little surprised it's not higher.

That combined with the fact spam is very annoying (I use email but only if I have to) it simply isn't a joy to open your inbox. So I prefer IM, text or phone.

Teenage Views (1)

bjackson1 (953136) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452210)

I did some original research for one of my senior projects concerning teens and technology.

I found that a great majority (>75%) of those between 13-18 never used email for communication, and thought it was either outdated or didn't have a use for them. These teens used SMS, MMS or IMs for communication.

Once the age increased a little bit to 18-25 the numbers shifted dramatically the other direction, as work usage of e-mail went way up. There is also the factor that these people are older and e-mail is "older" than SMS and competing technologies, however, the main factor that went into it was the fact that their jobs required them to use internal e-mail.

I'm sure at the other end of the population stream there are those that have no idea either doesn't know what e-mail is, or has no use for it.

If you asked my mother if she uses e-mail she would tell you she doesn't, however she has a g-mail address and sends me things all of the time. She thinks she instant messaging me because it goes to my blackberry and she gets a message back from my phone most of the time. (I've explained to her that it is email, not text, and she understands it; she just forgets from time to time).

Well duh (2, Funny)

mobby_6kl (668092) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452230)

In US of A, email is only for old people.

I love the smell of elitists in the morning (1)

dustwun (662589) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452244)

Another poster had it right calling this arrogance. It's not as if internet access is universal throughout the US at a reasonable cost. Consider farm areas of Missouri or Wyoming, where you can barely get cable TV because according to the cable companies it's too expensive to run the lines. The ONLY reliable internet access in many midwest areas is via satellite networks, and these can be prohibitively expensive on your average farmer's salary.

So yes, lets all mock the folks who grow the corn needed for the syrup which powers our mountain dew because the company teat we all suckle from in one form or another isn't available everywhere.

Freaking jackasses....

20% of Americans have NEVER used e-mail? (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452272)

It is probably fair to suggest that many of the 20% in this situation have made a conscious choice to avoid computers with the same determination one would bring to avoiding a rabid dog.

Would it be unfair to note that according to the American Research Group, George Bush's job approval rating is somewhere around 20%, and speculate that perhaps members of one group may be just a tad over-represented in the other?

It might be illuminating to see what percentage of this group believe evolution is "just a theory", and what percentage believe family reunions are good places to meet babes, too.

Or maybe we're the ones stuck in the past (1)

dupper (470576) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452282)

The summary seems to equate e-mail with interpersonal communication on the internet. But now that I think about it, all I regularly do with my email account is report spam, confirm registrations and receive receipts.

95% of my textual communications with my friends and family is through SMS, MSN/AIM/Gtalk and Facebook. The other 5% is post-its on the fridge and ransom notes scrawled in blood.

And my generation (I'm 21) is a few years behind behind the people who grew up always having a readily usable web -- I can only assume it's even more pervasive for anyone born after the mid 90s. E-mail for the current generation is probably approaching some arcane, meaningless legacy step between them and their MySpace registration.

If anything, e-mail for non-business-related reasons has become elevated/deprecated to sentimentality, an intermediary step in remote intimacy between a private message and a handwritten letter. If I send an e-mail to someone instead of Facebooking them, it's going to be longer than 255 characters and probably mean something.

But cut the luddite bullshit. I posit here that /you/ perhaps are the luddite, but even if I'm wrong you're being a cock.

I would say that is really good (3, Insightful)

smchris (464899) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452316)

Those of us around IT don't always see them regularly, but remember, 16-17% of the population just aren't that smart. And per another comment, 1% are in jail. I saw a college alumni survey about a decade ago and email use really dropped over about the age of 55 -- which I guess now might extrapolate to 65? Lot of Americans over 65. Lot of Americans at the poverty level as well.

Admittedly, many of these factors are coexistent but 20% sounds really good all things considered.

Where are the statistics? (1)

louzerr (97449) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452342)

What kind of sensationalism is this? Numbers are quoted, but the links, rather than pointing to the source of the numbers, point to other semi-related opinions.

It's an interesting article, but it seems to have much ties to the truth as any book by James Dobson.

I miss the days when publishers were accountable for providing facts to back up their words.

Email.... thats old hat! (1)

hyperz69 (1226464) | more than 6 years ago | (#23452452)

Smoke Signals, invest now. It's gonna be HUGE!
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