Digital Divide

I’m a digital immigrant – someone who wasn’t born into the world of technology – as opposed to a digital native – someone who has grown up connected to the digital world. I’ve adapted to my adopted environment and am a proponent of social media; I use it to connect personally and professionally. As a digital immigrant, however, I live in my adopted environment (with the internet), while still remembering what it was like to grow up in my former environment (without the internet). Because I’ve lived in both, I think I retain a sense of wonder about this brave new world. However, with wonder, I also retain wonder’s flipside of caution. Straddling that digital divide, I am constantly aware anything powerful enough to make you look and feel good is also able to do the exact opposite.

Kevin Durant, from the Golden State Warriors, was reminded of that the hard way this week. According to the LA Times, in an interview he gave at the TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2017 event, “he hasn’t been able to sleep or eat since his disparaging tweets about his former coach Billy Donovan and most of his former Oklahoma City teammates became national news earlier this week.” In the article, Durant goes on to explain “he had just awakened after falling asleep watching football when he posted the tweets.” Because nothing ever truly dies in cyberspace, even though his comments were “quickly deleted,” [i] screenshots had already been captured and added to the flotsam and jetsam of the digital stream. Kevin Durant, reportedly, has almost 17 million followers connected to his every word[ii], stress “every.”

Losing sleep and appetite because of something you said on Twitter is, relatively, new; losing sleep and appetite over something you said is not. What’s new is the sheer connective breadth the internet allows. In ways we agree to, and ways we don’t (think Equifax[iii]), we are digitally accessible and in ways we couldn’t dream of before. Possibly, digital immigrants understand this on levels digital natives do not. We’ve spent time out of the boiling pot so we remember when the water wasn’t as warm.

I saw a Pew study from about a year ago that said “13% of Americans don’t use the internet,” which went on to ask the question, “Who are they?”[iv] From 2013 data, the answer appears these were people who didn’t go online because they had “no interest in doing so or did not think the internet was relevant to their lives,” who “said the Internet was too difficult to use,” who “said they were ‘too old to learn’” or reported that “cost was a barrier.” If there are digital immigrants and digital natives, I’m not sure what to call this group – digital decliners?

Granted, this group is shrinking; from the year 2000, when Pew reported “nearly half (48%) of American adults did not use the Internet[v] to the latest statistic of 13%. This group is also shrinking out of sheer attrition; “seniors are the group most likely to say they never go online. About four-in-ten adults ages 65 and older (41%) do not use the Internet, compared with only 1% of 18- to 29-year-olds.”[vi]

Merriam-Webster defines “digital divide” as “the economic, educational, and social inequalities between those who have computers and online access and those who do not.”[vii] I think the digital divide goes further. Because the internet is such a powerful medium for connection, I believe it also has a flipside to be a powerful medium for division. Consider the concept of an echo chamber[viii], which Wikipedia defines as: “a metaphorical description of a situation in which information, ideas, or beliefs are amplified or reinforced by communication and repetition inside a defined system.”[ix]

Social media is a user-defined system. Kevin Durant may be the latest person reminded that the internet giveth and the internet taketh away; user beware.

Authored by Dr. Gregory Jantz, founder of The Center • A Place of HOPE and author of 36 books. Pioneering whole-person care nearly 30 years ago, Dr. Jantz has dedicated his life’s work to creating possibilities for others, and helping people change their lives for good. The Center • A Place of HOPE, located on the Puget Sound in Edmonds, Washington, creates individualized programs to treat behavioral and mental health issues, including eating disorders, addiction, depression, anxiety and others.

[i] http://www.latimes.com/sports/sportsnow/la-sp-kevin-durant-twitter-20170920-story.html

[ii] https://twittercounter.com/KDTrey5

[iii] https://www.consumerreports.org/equifax/how-to-lock-down-your-money-after-the-equifax-breach/

[iv] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/07/some-americans-dont-use-the-internet-who-are-they/

[v] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/07/some-americans-dont-use-the-internet-who-are-they/

[vi] http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/09/07/some-americans-dont-use-the-internet-who-are-they/

[vii] https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/digital%20divide

[viii] https://www.wired.com/2016/11/facebook-echo-chamber/

[ix] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Echo_chamber_(media)

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