17 percent of Americans still can’t part with their landline


Even telephone booths don’t have landlines any more. Above, library manager Antje Krueger looks into a book in a former British telephone booth in Bergen, Germany, on Feb. 4, 2014. (Holger Hollemann/EPA)

Plain, old telephones may fill some Americans with nostalgia. They may fondly recall the ring, the heft of a receiver, and twirling fingers in the cord. But for a surprising number of others, the call of the landline is still so strong that they find it nearly impossible to give up.

In a list of “technologies that would be very hard to give up” compiled by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 17 percent of Americans still listed the landline. Compare that with the 10 percent who said “social media” was their must-have technology.

Yet, while the landline is still vital to more people than you may expect, its holding power is on a steady slide. Of current landline users, only 28 percent still count it as invaluable. That’s down from the 46 percent of hard-wired faithful who said the same in 2006. As wireless coverage gets more reliable, chances are those numbers will continue to fall.

The figure about landlines is just one of many great nuggets about how Americans view and use technology in a report from the research firm, released ahead of next month’s 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web.

As for other technology that Americans are loath to part with: 46 percent name “the Internet,” 44 percent cite the cellphone, 35 percent say televisions, and 34 percent e-mail.

Meanwhile, our regular use of modern technologies continues to grow. The percentage of Americans who use a computer has climbed to 81 percent of the population from 42 percent in 1990. Cellphone use has seen an even faster rise: up to 90 percent from 53 percent in 2000.

Still, as my Post colleague Mark Berman noted, the report also reveals that a surprising number — 13 percent — of U.S. adults say they don’t use the Internet at all. Internet usage is highest among Americans who earn at least $75,000 per year, those with college degrees, and the youngest adults in the Pew survey.

As you might imagine, adults aged 18 to 29 have also experienced the good and the bad of the Internet. They reported being much more likely to have been treated kindly by others online — 89 percent vs. 63 percent of 30-49 year olds.

But, having more or less grown up on the Internet, that same age group has also experienced more online venom than other Americans. Forty-four percent reported being “treated unkindly or attacked” online, vs. just 21 percent of those in the age group ahead of them.

As our relationship with the Web continues to evolve, right along with the good and the bad of what technology has to offer, it’ll be fascinating to see how those numbers change.

Overall, however, people are pretty upbeat on the Web. Ninety percent of those surveyed said the Internet has been a positive thing for them personally — approval numbers Congress can only dream of.

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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