There's a startling new figure from the Office for National Statistics: 7.63 million adults in the UK have never used the internet. That's 15 per cent. So who the devil are these technophobic weirdos who have never gone online? Roughly half, it seems, are over-75s and/or defined as disabled, and not in a position to use a computer. But the others? We're so accustomed to emailing, Googling, wikipeeking, app-wrangling, tweeting and Facebooking, we find it hard to imagine going without. It's not a matter of cost, either. What remain of the nation's libraries are filled all day with citizens using the borough's computers, gratis.
And age doesn't stop people entering cyberspace: a whole new demographic of 80-somethings have embraced the iPad as the perfect armchair companion. But consider the non-Internet-ers; the off-liners; the Internots. What are their days like? They won't spend hours yearning to make smart remarks on Twitter, won't waste whole mornings playing Angry Birds: Star Wars and surfing newspaper websites until they find an article they can write nasty things about, won't drift (by, you know, accident) into porn sites that hold them captive until 3am, won't send 20,000 flirtatious emails to attractive Army colleagues until they lose their jobs and won't writhe with frustration because the Valentine's Day gift they bought online has failed to arrive in the post.
I picture them – this dwindling band – reading actual books by log fires, going for hearty walks to post handwritten letters, enjoying conversations at dinner rather than prodding screens and watching films in cinemas rather than streaming them onto a laptop. I picture them having a non-digital life. Not a long life – their percentage of the population is shrinking fast – but a rich one.
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