In this uber connected 24/7 world we are living in, those of us that use social media either for professional or personal reasons often forget that not everyone else plugs in like we do. While a large swatch of Americans have access to the internet, that does not mean everyone who does is tweeting, Facebooking, Google Plusing and thinking about their Klout score. For some it’s just a place to check email, apply for a job and maybe look up something.
Lately when talking to my Dad during our weekly chats, we have been talking more and more about the impact of the internet and social media on our daily lives. He recently asked me to explain Klout scores and was blown away by the concept and asked a simple question that really stayed with me…what about those who simply are not a part of this brave new world?
Well sad to say they get left behind. As our dependence on social media grows, in many ways it’s a good thing but in many ways it’s not. In some ways the digital divide is closing, turns out some of the heaviest users of Twitter are African-Americans. Which I can attest to and not because I am black! I often joke, I have two twitters that I am a part of, mainstream and Black. Sometimes the two clash especially when I make a tweet that someone who is Black or familiar with Black culture gets as a joke, yet someone who is not takes way too seriously. For me it’s all fun and games but really it isn’t.
While it’s commonly assumed that if one chooses not to be connected and heavily involved in social media, money or lack or resources is the chief barrier. Well my non-scientific study says that’s not true at all. Among the low income families I serve, many have home computers (often through Rent a Center, but that’s another post), and now that cell phone technology has grown it means one can even have a pay as you go smartphone which of course provides access. While there are clearly parts of the US that don’t have great connections thus limiting access, the truth is not everyone wants to be connected.
One of my oldest friends is an on air-person in the Chicago radio scene and has been for years, yet he has no Facebook or Twitter accounts. In fact he has been adamant with his employer that unless they just demand that he get them, he has no intentions of doing so. I asked him a while back why, and he told me privacy. Lately B’s decision has been in the back of my mind as Facebook goes through yet another series of changes. How much are we giving up to be connected?
I am starting to slowly think that the price of this 24/7 connection may be higher than any of us think, yet we won’t realize it until it’s too late. In the old days, one could be relatively anonymous online, but more and more we are being asked to reveal ourselves. In some cases there are very good reasons. Yet depending on who you are, revealing your inner self can have deep repercussions. Does the boss really need to know you are a member of the BDSM scene? Yet if Mark Zuckerberg has his way, frictionless internet experiences will have of us all knowing way too damn much about each other.
Yet the price you pay when not connected is pretty damn high! Depending on what you do for a living, not having a Klout score can hurt you, and in order to get a high score you have to be a heavy user of social media. Some months back, I did a little experiment, I attempted to give up Facebook for a month, and it failed. Why? Turns out party invites, and other ways of connecting are all done on line especially via Facebook. Just this past weekend, we went to celebrate a friend’s birthday…how was the invite and plans made? Facebook. Gone are the days when we just pick up the phone for many of us, at best, we might text.
There really are no answers, I can’t imagine going back to a world where all shopping must happen in a store, or research at a library. In recent months, I have taken some of my online interactions, off line and met up with people who really may turn into good friends. That said, I admit even I am starting to grow uneasy at how much of myself is revealed and known online by people who really don’t know me.
In the end maybe we are all getting left behind, some by choice and some by being a part of this brave new system where the entry price is higher than any of us can truly understand and won’t understand until it’s too late.