Last week, Rasmussen College in Minnesota released a fascinating infographic on the changing and conflicting habits of digital users. “Digital Literacy in 2015: America’s Complicated Relationship with the Internet” challenges some long-held assumptions about the way we use the Internet — young people especially. Here are five takeaways from the survey.
1. People see digital literacy as a career boost. 83% of the people surveyed in the report believe — nay, recognize! — that improved digital skills lead to greater job prospects. The type of skill that drew the most interest was “Office/professional skills.” Digging into that answer, it seemed that the people who sought them out did so for career advancement. The reported reasons to learn office skills were split pretty evenly between “to do my current job better,” “to find a better job,” and “to find a new career.” These respondents are shrewd: the vast majority of jobs available today require not only digital literacy, but an ever-growing type of digital literacy. These responses are heartening. Here’s the full response:
2. Many users don’t train because they think it takes too long. The study’s respondents were less aware of the small time commitment that valuable skills training actually requires. In response to the question, “What’s stopping people from improving their digital literacy,” the answer given most, by nearly 40% of respondents, was “I don’t have enough time.” Clearly these respondents haven’t heard of microlearrning, which delivers lasting results in 60-90 seconds.
3. Young people may not be wrong to fear the Internet. Surprisingly, younger people found the Internet significantly more threatening than older people: 37% of 18-34-year-olds said they find the Internet “scary” combined with 23% of 35-54-year-olds. This could speak more to younger people understanding the real risks of the Internet more keenly than older people. There’s also the angle of recognizing that the more you know about the Internet, the more it is scary. Perhaps this question’s timbre would change if it were phrased, “I use the Internet with wary respect.” That’s just smart usership.
4. We have a love-hate relationship with the Internet. This was the headline that Rasmussen lead the study with. It’s pretty comical: two separate majorities of people reported that the Internet is both necessary and overwhelming. It sounds funny when phrased that way, but it rings true. The Internet is overwhelming: in 2016, for the first time in history, it will transfer a Petabyte of data. But a lot of things that we need are overwhelmingly large: the atmosphere, the water cycle, the earth. What makes the Internet so powerful as a global construct is that it radically customizes to every individual’s needs, to the point that our lives are uploaded to it almost entirely. It’s an amusing graphic, but it also speaks to a deep truth about interconnected technology. By the time the Internet of Things comes online, there will be very few people outside the middle of this Venn diagram.
5. The great return to privacy may be underway. “Privacy is dead” is so 2006. Some of Grovo’s most popular videos for how to use social media are on the topic of how to make profiles private and keep information secure. In this study, Rasmussen reports that 70% of 18-34-year-olds have made their Facebook profiles private, more than any older age group. As we stated in the third entry on this list, this may reflect a greater familiarity with Facebook among young people. Public profiles entail a real vulnerability. Try this and see if you still believe that a private profile isn’t the better bet.
In total, it’s unsurprising to find that we have a “complicated relationship” with the Internet. For all of its vastness, digital technology connects us as individuals in a way that has fundamentally changed our habits and even our neurology. We may not be able to understand it exhaustively, but we increasingly can’t think without it.