Archive for Sunday, June 17, 2012

Digital divide: Not everyone views Internet, smartphones as advances

Viola and Truly Ernest Schlup, foreground, who live near Baldwin City, will take cards over computers any day.

Viola and Truly Ernest Schlup, foreground, who live near Baldwin City, will take cards over computers any day.

June 17, 2012


In 1812, a group of English textile workers known as Luddites destroyed new labor-saving equipment that threatened their livelihoods.

Two hundred years later, the term “Luddite” survives, with a broader definition as a person opposed to technological changes — such as the Internet.

Tom Steele, Basehor, says he’d rather spend his time on his Harley or with grandkids than frittering it away on the Internet.

Tom Steele, Basehor, says he’d rather spend his time on his Harley or with grandkids than frittering it away on the Internet.

According to, only 21 percent of the North American population does not use the Internet — meaning no email or Facebook, no Skyping or Web surfing. Statistics for northeast Kansas were not available. But a search using old-fashioned means identified a few residents of the region doing without modern communication advances for reasons ranging from financial to philosophical.

Tom Steele, 67, of Basehor said he steers clear of the Internet because of concerns over privacy and his own temperament.

“I go to the library once in a while and fiddle on their computer,” the retired grocery hauler said. “If I get mad there, I won’t tear it up. But if I had a laptop at home, I’d probably throw it.”

During one brief period after an employer stopped mailing pay stubs, Steele recalled, he began using a computer at work to access payroll data.

“You had to change your password every 30 days, and the third time you hit the wrong button, it would kick you out,” he said. “I finally said, ‘Heck with it, I’ll go to the bank for the information.’”

But even if computers were hassle-free, Steele would have little use for them.

“As far as people paying their bills by Internet, that’s about the dumbest thing going,” he said. “Someone got hold of my wife’s Social Security number, and we ended up having to put a credit lock on.”

Being able to see his grandkids live on Skype would be “cool,” Steele acknowledged, adding that he could “see a whole world of advantageous things, like genealogy, you could look up on the computer.”

“But it just doesn’t fit my category,” he said. “My daughter and son-in-law use their smartphone to find out what restaurants are closest to them and how many calories are in this or that. I say, ‘Just go eat.’”

According to Steele, he has an “antique” cellphone, which doesn’t text or take photos. And he’s dreading the day the battery wears out, forcing him to upgrade.

“I just have no interest or patience for stuff like that,” Steele said. “I’d rather ride my motorcycle, work in the yard and spend time with my family.”

Andra Gonzalez, who lives at the Bluejacket Lodge Apartments in Shawnee, said she prefers to communicate the old-fashioned way: through letters, on a landline telephone or face to face.

While working on one of the 100 lap robes she donates each year, Gonzalez chatted recently with neighbor Cena Burge, who rued the fact she could no longer afford Internet service. Burge, a Christian Scientist, said she especially missed online church programs and the ability to look up things like recipes.

“If I need a recipe,” Gonzalez said, “I go to the library and find a cookbook.”

A retired nurse, Gonzalez used to use a computer in the clinic. But she doesn’t miss the learning curves associated with annual updates of the operating system — “It used to be called Windows,” she said.

Like Steele, Gonzalez also has security concerns. Her son’s bank account was tapped to the tune of several thousand dollars by a hacker, she said.

But Gonzalez’s main reason for remaining offline, she said, is that “there are better things to spend time and money on.”

Viola Schlup, who lives east of Baldwin City, said she hasn’t needed any innovations since marrying Truly Ernest Schlup and moving to a new home decades ago.

“We had a refrigerator, a black-and-white TV and an inside bathroom,” Viola said. “No, I take that back. I still had to beat a path (to the outhouse) until I got pregnant with our first child and we moved to a house with a bathroom.”

Truly Ernest, 83, and Viola, 71, don’t have the Internet or even cable or satellite dish for television reception.

“We get (channels) 4, 5 and 9, which is more than we need,” Viola said. “I do have a cellphone in case I go out and have a breakdown. But as far as the Internet, we don’t need it, don’t want it, not going to get it.”

The Schlups prefer to spend their free time playing cards, watching a little TV and playing with their Pomeranian, Tinkerbelle.

“My children all have the Internet, and I think it’s good for the right things,” Viola said. “But take all these men who think they’re talking to 14-year-olds who are actually talking to detectives. That destroys families.”

Michael Repp of Nieman Chiropractic in Shawnee uses the Internet in his business. But like older Luddites, Repp said he didn’t like the interpersonal direction of modern communication.

“I don’t tweet or Facebook, and I don’t have an iPhone,” Repp said. “I’m ‘so 29 seconds ago’ — which, by the way, is my least favorite commercial slogan.”


Bill_Slu 5 years, 10 months ago

I have gotten rid of cable TV recently with the new price increases. I bought an antenna at b-buy for $80 and now get 24 channels (crystal clear) for free! Those commercials where cable companies are portrayed as thieves and pick pockets are eerily similar. When I was a kid we were one of the first people on the block with cable TV. It was $15 a month. The main reason for getting cable back then was better reception and no commercials. Now there are channels dedicated to nothing but commercials.

I also downgraded my phone to a Jitterbug (a few years ago) and I get 50 min a month for $14.95 / No contract. It does not take pictures or text, you just talk.

TheStonesSuck 5 years, 10 months ago

Do you use the internet? You could purchase the same antenna for about 1/3 the price online.

classclown 5 years, 10 months ago

According to, only 21 percent of the North American population does not use the Internet


Only? I think 1 out of every 5 people is a rather significant amount.

Gareth Skarka 5 years, 10 months ago

Typical cutting-edge "journalism" from the LJW.


Really. I'm stunned at this revelation.

Michael Rowland 5 years, 10 months ago

The only people who are against new technology are those who are either afraid of it or can't figure out how to properly integrate it into their lives. The former is sad, the latter is understandable.

jhawkinsf 5 years, 10 months ago

As someone who learned math using a slide rule, long before calculators were available, when computers filled an entire room, I can honestly say that I fit quite nicely into both your categories. I know I'm so far behind the curve, that if I used every waking moment, I would still fail to catch up. Hopefully, you younger folks will have patience with us.

Hooligan_016 5 years, 10 months ago

I appreciate the sentiment of this article, but was anyone interviewed under the age of say ... 35?

pburg_girl 5 years, 10 months ago

I'm 29 years old - finally got Internet at home about 2 years ago, and, like Mr. Steele, I'm hoping my flip cellphone doesn't break so I don't have to upgrade. The new technology is fine and the advantages are obvious, but I think I'm going to hold out a few more years before I embrace it. I like being behind the curve and am rather proud of my 5-year-old, seemingly indestructible flip phone.

Topple 5 years, 10 months ago

Beats a $500 iPhone with a screen that shatters from a 2 foot drop.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

"get off my lawn"

"curse you cloud"

-anonymous old man

Great story, LJW

camper 5 years, 10 months ago

I reluctantly accept new technology. Just when I get comfortable in my cave sitting by my fire, someone from Apple throws something into my hut that I am going to have to figure out before I can relax and get comfortable again.

Steve Bunch 5 years, 10 months ago

My phone has the great Stay-at-Home app. It's a simple length of cable that holds it to the baseboard. I've never lost or misplaced that phone, it never goes off in theaters, and it's never diverted my attention from driving. I love it.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

I couldn't live without my iPhone. But hey, some people like to live in caves and start fires by rubbing two sticks together. The rest of the world will just whiz right past you. I hope you enjoy the taste of our dust.

somedude20 5 years, 10 months ago

I am with ya but when the solar flares, EMP's from a-bombs, zombie apocalypses and a host of other things forces us off the grid, those cave dwellers will be more advanced than us

camper 5 years, 10 months ago

I have accepted filtration technology. Great on dust.

Bill_Slu 5 years, 10 months ago

Most people that rely on smart phones to help them make it through the day are sad people. They are not here and now, they are somewhere else concerned about what someone else is doing. Ever go out with a friend only to have their face buried in their hand unaware of the surroundings? Talk about life whizzing past you, but you probably didn't notice.

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

and then they go home and talk on these banana looking things with cords instead of hopping in their horse drawn wagon to ride into town to talk face-to-face. They just don't understand what they're missin!

Deb Engstrom 5 years, 10 months ago

When I spoke to my 11 year old about texting (or something) while in the movie theater, she said, "I can't just sit here and watch the movie. I have to have something to do." Geesh!!!

JackMcKee 5 years, 10 months ago

then there are those that can both use a smart phone yet still survive without one if necessary. Nice straw man, though.

labmonkey 5 years, 10 months ago

I graduated high school in the last era of students who did not have cell phones or internet. Sometimes I long to go back to those days where I feel I do not have to have a phone on me 24/7 and I cannot be found if I don't want to be. It was also nice to not feel like I had to check the internet everyday.

In reality, besides styles and slang, going to school was pretty much the same from the 50's to the late 90's. Parents could still pretty much relate to their kids while still being parents. You had to let them go at some point. Today with cell phones, internet, and social networking, kids are never truely let go in many cases and helicopter parenting has become rampant. That, along with 24/7 cable and entertainment news has dumbed us down, made us so we no longer mature as people, and as a whole, we have devolved.

camper 5 years, 10 months ago

I like iPhones. But I got it set up to where I can live without one. I am not co-dependent on this technology.

Just like automobiles. I like my car. But it is nice to walk or ride a bike to the store sometimes. I don't mind the folks whizzing past me.

Steve Jacob 5 years, 10 months ago

I embraced the internet early on, I love it, and even accepted Facebook. But smartphones are expensive energy hogs, I don't need access to everything 24/7.

somedude20 5 years, 10 months ago

Brightside: Think about all the kiddos that took up playing with their phones rather than smoking.

Flap Doodle 5 years, 10 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

kawrivercrow 5 years, 10 months ago

This one got me...“But take all these men who think they’re talking to 14-year-olds who are actually talking to detectives. That destroys families.”

Sex predators need to be cleansed from the earth. If the internet did nothing else but provide this invaluable service, that alone would be worth the effort.

Needless to say, the predators were already destroying their own and others' families. Getting busted via technology was merely the highly-efficient tool used to facilitate their demise, not the cause of it.

Maddy Griffin 5 years, 10 months ago

Love the internet! But I hate the smartphones. They are just another excuse for laziness. All day I watch kids running wild without any concept of manners or etiquette. Where's Mom? She's busy texting, facebooking, sexting or whatever and can't be bothered. Lay down the phone and raise your kids.

pizzapete 5 years, 10 months ago

I'd like to see cell phones, etc. made illegal to use while driving, walking, or while in a public area like a restaurant or movie theatre. Half the young people I see driving or walking around today are focused on their phones and are oblivious to everything else around them. Save your electronic distractions for when you're at home where you cant hurt someone else. That phone call or text can wait.

George_Braziller 5 years, 10 months ago

And eliminate the use of cell phones in grocery stores. Hello people, I can hear your conversation, you aren't in a phone booth. A woman stood behind me in a check out lane once and she was talking to her doctor about her vaginal infection. Yikes.

camper 5 years, 10 months ago

History might just rank the digital age with things like the industrial revolution. I believe the way we interact has changed at an enormous rate since the internet and cell phones were introduced. This is all good. I don't like eating dust, but I like to retain a certain amount of skepticism. Not all technology is as good as we want to believe. There could be future consequences. Technology is often a double edged sword.

Frederic Gutknecht IV 5 years, 10 months ago

Big brother has reached into our hearts and stolen our minds. It's all good or not. Take my mind. Take my heart. Take me down your garden path and call me a long as you have no time to prosecute my indifference, independence and joy in sharing. Big brother has reached into our hearts and stolen our minds. It's all good or not. Take my take, Mind my heart. Take me down your garden path and call me your enemy. I will wend my way through your world and leave all dust blowing in your wind and winding into the whirlwind of your demise. You have released the monster... within your enslaving ineptitude. It's all good... or not. It's too late to care. It's to take us where

Bill_Slu 5 years, 10 months ago

"Twitters broke, my life has no meaning anymore," one user wrote on the social media website Tumblr.

Another wrote, "twitter is down and my life is over."

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