I got a kick out of reading Joe Mandese’s observations Tuesday about watching the World Cup on ESPN, and I have a feeling he’s hit on something that many of us don’t want to admit: We don’t get how soccer works, exactly.
That was Joe’s point. “A little bit of instruction on what constitutes good game play or strategy wouldn’t hurt,” he wrote. “I understand that someone actually kicking or head-butting the ball into the opponents’ net is a good thing, but what about all the other action moving the ball up and down the field? Or how about the players who are moving it? ... I understand that much of the basics I would need to understand to enjoy the sport better would only slow the game down for established fans, but I’m thinking that ESPN, with all its multiple channels, could televise a version for novices like me.”
When I read that, it reminded me of something that I know is totally unfashionable to say, but is very true: Millions of Americans don’t know more than the very basics about using the Internet or finding, watching--and certainly creating--online video, and not many seem to care about that large community of non-users.
They are the Internet immigrants and this industry seems to kiss them off for what seems like a good practical, cold reason: They are not the prime consumer market.
But to those people, a huge chunk of how this nation communicates with each other and entertains itself is an alien, and alienating, world.
There are lots of exceptions. My 85-year-old father-in-law is eagerly self-teaching himself on the iPad we gave him. His wife uses the iPad and has read off a Kindle for years.
But when a misplaced keystroke takes them far from where they want to be, they are on the phone to us looking for a way back home, often apologizing because they think it’s all their fault.
About 15% of Americans over 18 don’t use the Internet. But according to a Pew Research study, 63% of those who don’t use the Internet think they’d need someone to show them how to do it. And 49% of the non-users are 65 or older. It’s not funny, though it’s sometime played for laughs.
For reasons beyond the obvious, it’s too bad the Affordable Care Act Web site was such a fiasco at the beginning, because I suspect that had it worked perfectly, it would have been a good test of what a wide variety of Americans know about using the Internet.
I don’t know of studies that ask how well people can use the Internet, or how confident they are. I suspect it's not half as much as we'd hope. It’s one thing to speak a language, and quite another to be fluent in it.
That’s why I think it’s amazing that the biggest names in the digital space don’t do some teaching, at a very basic level, which would include not only the use of online video, but teaching someone how to access it. Most new computers don’t come with clear guides. There’s an assumption the user just knows, or knows how to find out. Chromecast and Amazon Fire underscore how easy it is to use those devices, but a wary Internet traveler is probably resistant to going so far down another new technological highway to find that out.
Younger and more seasoned users might think it’s not their problem. But it is. The payoff might have to be put in me-first terms. The older non-user is likely to be a relative, and the longer it is before they learn, the worse off we all will be.
A natural place for some teaching to be done would be on local newspaper or TV station Web sites, where, at least users might feel they know the source. But doing nothing will keep online video a foreign idea to millions who don’t know, or believe that accessing it would be way too hard.