“What do you mean, you don’t use the Internet? Do you live under a rock?!” The stigma of being offline

March 21, 2016

In a time and society in which Internet use and Internet skills are expected of everyone—especially those under retirement age—affordable access to broadband infrastructures is a first, key step. But additional barriers to broadband adoption—digital skills and the motivation to use digital technologies and the Internet in the first place—must also be addressed.


Recent studies have shown that cost and access remain critical barriers for going (and staying) online. But my research shows that non-users increasingly mention other issues such as a lack of skills and interest as well. At the same time, other studies found that negative attitudes to technologies and the Internet may be holding non-users back from becoming Internet users as much as socio-demographic factors, such as income and education.


It is thus important that we pay attention not only to the “hard factors” of being offline, but also the “soft factors” like attitudes and perceptions that could potentially increase the motivation to go online. At the same time, it is critical that we do not patronize non-users by stigmatizing them as being stuck in the 20th century or making them feel like outsiders.


Read more on the Benton Foundation homepage: https://www.benton.org/blog/what-do-you-mean-you-dont-use-internet-do-you-live-under-rock

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Bianca C. Reisdorf, D.Phil.

Department of Communication Studies

UNC Charlotte

© 2016 by Bianca Reisdorf.

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