• Research shows that it is possible for people to use the internet without knowing they are using the internet.
  • 6% of Kenyans report using Facebook and 3% report using WhatsApp while still stating that they do not use the internet.
  • There is genuine confusing among some people as to what the internet really is. For many, it's simply websites; apps do not count, neither does accessing social media on their smartphones.

Is it possible for someone to use the internet, browsing on an app that they wilfully logged into, without realising that they are, in fact, using the internet? It turns out the answer is 'Yes', according to data from Pew Research Centre. This data shows that 6% of Kenyans report using Facebook and 3% report using WhatsApp while still stating that they do not use the internet.

The same research, conducted in the US and 11 emerging countries, shows that 10% of South Africans say they use WhatsApp while reporting that they don't use the internet and 6% of them use Facebook while reporting the same.

Statista
Countries Where People Are Using The Internet Without Realising It [Statista]

How is this even possible?

"What is the internet? And who is an internet user? The questions may seem straightforward, but more than a decade of research in the United States and abroad suggests that some people who use the internet may not be aware that they’re doing so," Laura Silver and Aaron Smith write for Pew Research Centre.

There is genuine confusing among some people as to what the internet really is. For many, it's simply websites; apps do not count, neither does accessing social media on their smartphones.

According to Silver and Smith, there is such a thing as “unconscious internet users”. They are people who say they do not use the internet but use social media and a smartphone or feature phone. These people do not have access to a computer or tablet and so their phones are their primary sources of internet connection.

In three countries in which they did their research, Pew say that it's often people with lower levels of education who tend to be unconscious internet users. Although they state that in most countries, there is no relationship between education and understanding of what the internet really is. They add that while older people are "somewhat less likely to use the internet, smartphones or social media than younger people, they are not more likely to be unconscious users."

There is also the case where many people who use social media and messaging apps are unaware that those platforms are part of the internet and not different from it. Facebook's Chief Operating Officer, Sheryl Sandberg, once admitted that “People actually confuse Facebook and the internet in some places.” This, as the data now shows, is absolutely true.