Due to my fortunate circumstances growing up, I did not know that the digital divide was a major problem facing the United States before taking this class. Actually, I had never even heard of the phrase “digital divide.” Although there is a lot of poverty in Connecticut, it has one of the largest income inequalities across all of the US 😥, the suburban area I grew up in was very sheltered from the poorer urban and rural parts.
In fact, it was mandatory for all students in my elementary school to attend a computer class multiple times a week. The class had its own designated room filled with over 25 computers where we learned not only how to surf the internet, use multiple types of programs, and took typing lessons, but also how to evaluate the accuracy of different sources. Through my knowledge at such a young age of how to properly use the internet and know what information can be used academically, I have grown up as a digital native. This is an advantage that not every American has the opportunity to experience. It has the ability to push me forward in the workforce as I am now fluent in many common programs necessary for typical business applications. For example, I have an online interview scheduled for this Tuesday using a program that I am familiar with so I am not worried (even if my nerves get the best of me 😬) about the technology hindering me from performing well.
The digital divide, however, is a much broader issue than just lack of access to the internet due to lack of money or infrastructure. It exists on a more individual level as well. For instance, I have never had a Twitter account before this class, and therefore have missed out on the entirety of the conversations that take place there. This is not surprising since according to The Pew Research Center on Internet and Technology, in 2018 most Twitter users are college graduates, black, live in urban areas, and have an income above $75,000 (Smith and Anderson 2018). I do not fit a single category which is why people like me are on the other side of the divide and do not participate in the activity there.
Due to these divides that exist online I know that the kind of news that I see through different websites are curated to continue to push the same agenda that I already believe in. From this class I have understood filter-bubbles to be so much more important than just showing your best friends posts first on Facebook. They can alter how people view the world as a whole. Many of my friends on social media sites, especially Facebook, share my values and beliefs in terms of politics and social policy, but there are always a few who strongly disagree. However, their posts are becoming less and less frequent on my timeline as I never like or interact with their dissenting opinions. Although this brings me less stress and anger as I scroll through Facebook (for hours and hours on end), it creates a real problem as it cuts off the opposing side of a conversation completely. Without listening to people who disagree with you, ideas are never improved as everyone believes they are always right. I fear this is the type of society we are approaching due to the digital atmosphere enhancing the divide in our society.
The internet and all the power it holds has the ability to bring people together in ways never imaginable just a few years ago, but it is doing quite the opposite. This class has exposed me to different perspectives on the Internet that I had never considered because they are subtle to recognize. However, that is exactly what is wrong with how our society views technology. Just because I am white does not give me any excuse to not understand and try to fundamentally change how minorities are treated online. The default anonymous neutral of a person online should not have to be a white man; it should merely be anonymous neutral 👍. Everyone needs some type of wakeup call that the internet is not the all-unifying force it appears to be at first glance.