What in the world does the phrase “rhetoric of the digital divide” mean? That was my exact thought while browsing the University of Texas Spring 2015 course schedule before registration. After reading the registrar’s description, I was honestly nervous to register for this because the description of the course stated, “A writing course focused on studying and practicing methods of rhetorical analysis within the contexts of disputed issues of academic, political, or cultural significance.” Honestly after reading that sentence, this course seemed nothing but boring and confusing; however, previous students pretty much forced me to register, despite the preconceived notions I had due to the uninteresting course description. Little did I know, RHE 309K was fast becoming a class I was legitimately interested in and opened my eyes to serious issues in our society regarding technology and class divisions. The digital divide, a gap between those who have ready access to computers and the Internet with those who do not, is a prominent issue in our society that exists locally, nationally, and globally. In today’s world, it was surprising to me that there are actually a large number of individuals without access to computers or the Internet. I was initially shocked to find out that this type of social stratification exists even in the United States.
My experience with computers and the Internet officially began when I was about seven years old. My father and I would sit down in his office for about thirty minutes each night before my bedtime, and, together, learn how to type on a computer keyboard. My father thought it would be extremely beneficial for both of us to improve on this skill by playing different typing games, because he felt that leaning and knowing how to use a computer would soon be more popular than using a pen and paper. He wanted me to realize at a young age the importance of using a computer to perform everyday tasks; and little did we both know that thirteen years later we would all be so dependent on computing devices like that desktop and now our phones.
The school I attended required every middle school student to purchase a laptop, as we would have to use them on a day-to-day basis for school related purposes. So, at age thirteen, I owned my very first PC tablet laptop. This new technology of mine was so much cooler than the cell phone (hot pink razor, obviously) I had at the time because my new laptop gave me access to search anything and everything I could have ever imagined. As I got acclimated to my new technology and figured out the varying things a laptop could do, I began to partake in the beginning of a digital world that would shape me forever. Instant messaging or AIM became the next big thing in my life. I created my first AIM screen name, lovepink1995, and began to use it to chat with my friends excessively about irrelevant things. My computer began to take over my life, because I was on it all day at school and when I got home. After school, I immediately began instant messaging my friends until all hours of the night, which eventually put a damper on things I enjoyed pre Internet days. My parents had to physically take away my laptop from in order to have my undivided attention. I was afraid to leave laptop and AIM for an extended period of time because I did not want to miss out on the latest gossip. The limitless possibilities of the digital world made me feel disengaged from everyone else’s lives if I failed to be online.
Each morning, the first thing I do is unplug my iPhone from the charger and immediately check Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat. I cannot at all fathom the people who are deprived of having any access to the Internet and computers. Technology is so prevalent in my life that I am never disconnected from it for more than five minutes (unless sleeping). It really makes me curious as to what my life would possibly be like without these technologies. I use Google at numerous times each day and cannot imagine how the world survived once without it. Technology helps me with school, keeping up with current event and connects me to my friends and family: I cannot imagine living in a world without those tools.