There I am—again—on the toilet, bored as hell, reading the back of the fucking shampoo bottle. There I am—again—waiting for the bus, awkwardly staring around at awkward people awkwardly walking by. There I am—again—in class, with nothing better to do than to listen to Jake’s lecture. You’ve been there right? Those dreadfully long, dull moments that would’ve been made less miserable or boring if you had only remembered to bring/charge your phone. These moments could’ve been filled with endless scrolls through the aesthetic fields of Instagram, or the humorously pathetic plights of sorry family members on Facebook. Instead, they’re filled with the teachings of Žižek and Marx or the fact that your ‘moisturizing conditioner’ contains 7 different types of alcohols. Only one word can describe what I/you felt in these situations: deprivation. Through understanding this along with my previous studies regarding the digital divide, I realized that I was born on the technologically privileged side of that divide.
I was public schooled growing up, and the programs I was in were very computer oriented. I remember taking my first typing class when I was in the second grade. The internet was so new to me then: the computer was a magic internet box that I wasn’t allowed to mess with at home until my teachers taught me everything I needed to know to not break it. At around the 5th grade, my parents got my brothers and me our very own computer. Growing up in this way, I couldn’t imagine what it would be like without having the access to internet. I’m attached to it, dependent on it. My case is mild though, and compared to some of the cell phone obsessed tweens out there, my addiction is acute at best. However, the fact still remains that I get uncomfortable when I don’t have the sweet solace of the internet to keep me warm and wholesome.
The point I’m driving at is that I, along with most all of my friends, acquaintances, and people I just generally know, I treat my cell phone as an extension of me—almost as if it’s another wondrous limb. There is a digital divide happening all around me as well as those I hold dear in the pretty little privileged bubble I live in. The very sanctity of technology is so deeply rooted in and woven into my personal history and upbringing that I almost can’t fathom not having it. It’s like air: I was born into it, was raised needing it, and would die (metaphorically) without it. Technology is so rooted in my culture that I can’t actually observe a large technological divide in my everyday life apart from seeing all the vagrants wandering the streets of Austin. I know it exists by studying it and reading studies and being taught about it, but my physical understanding of it doesn’t go further than the bum observations I made. This shows me a very essential idea for understanding the digital divide: the divide is a vicious circle, wherein those born on one side of it would find it vastly (or even impossibly) difficult to fully understand and integrate into the ways of the other side.
In the recent years, and especially in my recent studies, I contemplated the impact of governmental surveillance on my personal life and affairs. I scroll through my Facebook everyday and other random websites, and I always see advertisements that are eerily related to research I had conducted recently. I read stories often about government surveillance and malpractice by the NSA. Though these kinds of things I find very shitty, I ultimately come to the conclusion every time I think about it of, “Do I really give a fuck?” I have put a lot of thought into the question, and my conclusion is complex. I believe the practices of the government regarding surveillance are immoral and invade my privacy. I don’t feel comfortable having every little thing I research reflected and conveyed back to me through ads on Facebook. I don’t like receiving coupons in the mail specifically designated for me based on my research history. The solution to this is simple: give up the internet. Therein lies the problem: I am incapable of living in a world without internet access, and many people just like me are as well. In the society we live, the one I was born and raised in, technology and communication through the internet have become vital elements of every day life. The bottom line is, my connection with the internet is so strong and compelling that it causes me to cast aside my beliefs so that I can maintain this ‘connected’ lifestyle.
The fucking internet man…it’s everything. The way I grew up, knowledge of computer usage was essential, and without the ability to utilize and navigate the internet, one would be useless and hopeless. That’s how it is, I’ve noticed, for more and more people—for everyone really. Technology is essential for fitting in and being culturally adjusted. In my culture—which consists of the vast amount born on the privileged side of the divide—technology and internet access are key ingredients to life and connection. Just as cyborgs really on technology to survive and thrive, so do we. With this poignant dependence we as a society possess on technology, who’s to say we aren’t a bunch of cyborgs after all?