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A Historic Moment in Tech Adoption

Monday, December 31, 2018

We may be at a historic moment. “The share of Americans who go online, use social media, or own key devices has remained stable the past two years,” reports Pew Research Center. Pew knows because it has been surveying these things for decades, all the way back to 1994, when the percentage of people who “use the Internet” was just 6%.

According to Pew’s 2018 survey, 89% of American adults use the Internet, 77% own a smartphone, 73% own a desktop or laptop computer, 69% are on social media, and 53% have a tablet computer. These percentages are nearly identical to the 2016 figures. Behind the stability is the “near-saturation levels of adoption of some technologies. Put simply, in some instances there just aren’t many non-users left.”

That's not to say technological change has come to a halt. The Internet of Things is rising, says Pew, with the growing use of smart TVs, wearable devices, digital voice assistants, and so on. But we are in a new phase, and “the method for tracking certain adoption metrics may need to change.” Pew's panel of experts, for example, has advised Pew that it may want to stop asking people whether they “use the Internet.” The reason? That's like asking them if they use electricity. A silly question.

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