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Logging off ... for good

By Erica Hill
CNN Headline News

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To read more about the study, log on to Pew Internet & American Life Project external link

(CNN) -- The latest study from the Pew Internet & American Life Project finds the American Internet population is growing, but not at the warp speed it once was.

According to the study, overall growth has slowed since late 2001. The study says one reason for the leveling off is that the number of people dropping offline roughly equals the number of newcomers logging on each month.

The flattening growth didn't surprise me, but the dropouts did. The Internet is not nearly as novel as it once was, and most folks who want to log on have probably done so by now. I had never considered the possibility, however, of logging off completely.

I spend the majority of my workday online, and try to remember how I did things before the Internet. I often wonder what I -- or anyone -- did without this information superhighway. Yet a large number of Americans are happily getting off at the first available exit.

The study found of the 42 percent of Americans who do not use the Internet, 17 percent did at one time. What drove them away? According to the findings, most dropped off because they no longer had computers, decided the Internet wasn't all that interesting, or had a variety of technical problems.

Chances are more may follow -- the number of dropouts is on the rise. The last time the Pew Internet & American Life Project asked about Internet dropouts in April 2000, 13 percent of nonusers were dropouts. That's an increase of 4 percentage points in just fewer than three years.

Meanwhile, 56 percent of nonusers say they will probably never go online. Some say they don't feel the need. A smaller group of nonusers -- 20 percent -- live with someone who has Internet access and say with this "work around" they don't need to log on.

When the initial shock wore off, I realized that in many ways I am no different from the nonusers. When people hear that I do not own a microwave, they often look at me like I have three heads. "How could you not have a microwave?" they say. "Did it just break recently?"

The fact is, I don't need one. After nearly five years without one, I am doing fine. Sure, there are times it would come in handy for defrosting chicken or maybe reheating leftovers, but I've come to realize a little advanced planning isn't a bad thing. I've also noticed leftovers taste better when they're not nuked.

So maybe people just don't need the Internet. Sure, that life is unfathomable to many, but in some cases it just makes sense.

Far be it for me -- a technology anchor without a microwave -- to tell them why they need one. There is nothing more annoying to me than someone extolling the virtues of nuked food.

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