As we have been discussing the digital divide at length this semester, I have found myself reflecting more and more on my use of the Internet. By the very fact that I am writing this blog post on a computer, sitting in a comfortable chair on a college campus, and checking my phone, I am one of the lucky ones. I get the benefits of the Internet and technology, rather than many others in the U.S. and across the globe. Though the Internet still has downfalls, such as privacy concerns, my ability to use the Internet as a resource has given me immense benefits throughout my life. The Internet has shaped me in many different ways and I feel that because of my Internet use I am a more well rounded, globally connected individual.
In some ways I think I have had the ideal upbringing. As a white, upper middle class female with a strong private school background, access to the Internet has never been a problem. My family purchased cell phones shortly after they were put on the market and introduced computers and the Internet into our home when that first became an option. I have grown up attending schools that always had computer labs, Internet access, technology training, etc. This fits in with my demographics and what would be expected of someone of my economic status, race, etc. Taking this course has been an important reminder for me that not everyone has the same type of access to technology that I do. For example, I had never truly considered the idea of the “digital divide” before now. In the world that I have grown up access to the Internet has never been a problem. I believe this class has reminded me that a large percentage of the population, often minorities, are at an inherent disadvantage by their lack of access to current technologies.
A substantial way the Internet has contributed to my life is that it has helped mold me into who I am today. As we discussed in class, the Internet assists in a person’s identity construction. Not only can I utilize technology to create social media accounts like Facebook or Pinterest, but it has also aided me in other ways. For example, I applied to college using the Internet. Though some universities still accept paper applications, that practice is becoming increasingly uncommon. I believe those who receive the negative consequences of the digital divide are at an inherent disadvantage for receiving a college education, simply because in order to even apply to colleges one likely needs access to the Internet. Additionally, I am currently a marketing intern for a company headquartered in Austin. I received that internship by first searching on the communication career services website and applying online. If I had not been able to utilize the Internet in both of these instances I would have been at a great disadvantage to my peers and competitors. Again, the Internet has helped construct my identity and is contributing to my professional experiences.
The last unit we have been focusing on has been a reminder about the lack of privacy the Internet gives us. I enjoyed watching the documentary about privacy, because it was a reminder about the type of information companies can save and utilize for profit. I have Facebook and LinkedIn accounts, which I try to update regularly for both personal and professional reasons. Even though I have been told a million times to be careful what I post online, I do not often heed these warnings like I should. Not only do social media accounts hold many personal details about me, but websites like Amazon, Etsy, etc. are able to store credit card details and address information. There have been an increasing number of cases where companies have their information stolen and customers’ data is in the hands of third parties. This is a clear downside to the Internet and should not be taken lightly. Websites like Google also know so much about me that ads are specifically targeted to me based upon information I have online. Recently I have noticed how accurate some of these advertisements are, giving me a reminder that the amount of information stored on my computer is more than I even realize. It is only when I sit down to write papers such as this one do I consider what these targeted advertisements mean and how companies are able to utilize information about me for their gain.
Though the Internet has serious downsides, such as security concerns or privacy problems, I still feel like it has massive benefits. I would likely not be at this university or working at my current job without the Internet. The possibilities on the Internet are endless. I believe that is part of why attempts to lessen the digital divide are so important, because it will give others a chance to experience the possibilities of the Internet. I am grateful to have access to technology and all the opportunities it affords, and I hope that we will see a steady increase in the rest of the population getting that same chance.