“It’s My Life. Don’t you understand? It’s my life!” and the Digital Divide’s Place Within

a.k.a. How About We Add In Education, Subtract Greed, Multiply the User Base and Get Rid of This Digital Divide

My entire life, I’ve been surrounded by technology. Never do I remember not having access to a computer, both at home and at school. I learned to type in kindergarten; in second grade, I created my first email address. This ease of access to computers and the Internet I took for granted for many years. I simply assumed, at that young age, that because I could jump on a computer virtually any time of the day, everyone else in my school, the country, the world could as well. How naïve! (But, truly, what kid isn’t?)

As the years passed, I grew more aware of the inequities that existed across the globe both online and offline. The journey I took especially opened my eyes. Culturally, I identify much more strongly with white, middle class, American males than I do any other culture. After living in America for centuries (and in Texas before Texas was American), my family has more than assimilated with American culture. I speak to my grandparents (who are native English speakers) in English, I understand more Spanish than I speak but am far from fluent, and I’d usually much rather have sushi or pizza than Tex-Mex or Mexican cuisine. This has led to interesting comments to me in real life (from acquaintances) and virtually (where anonymity lets people be more blunt than is typically socially acceptable): “You don’t seem very Mexican”, “I don’t think of you as Hispanic”, and even, yes, “You’re the most white-washed Hispanic dude I know” (and, on the opposite side of the spectrum, “Don’t forget where you came from, your culture, your roots” despite “my roots” being much more entrenched in the United States, understandably, than those whose ancestors immigrated more recently). Am I supposed to take these statements as compliments? As insults? Yes, I listen to NPR, grocery shop at a local co-op, own a variety of kitchen gadgets, kiss my dog on the lips, will sing along (poorly, I might add) to Toto’s Africa, read books for fun, unironically use words like “ebullient”, “magnanimous” and other sesquipedalian terms in everyday conversation, have a great love for all things cheese, enjoy musicals, plays, and instrumental music, and have willingly seen more than one Wes Anderson movie, but what good do stereotypes such as these serve? Why is there still a need to excessively categorize people on the basis of race (a purely social construct), ethnicity, or even nationality in an ever-shrinking, increasingly connected world?

On the Internet, I assume every anonymous user interacting with me is a white male unless the text, context, image, or video proves otherwise (especially when taking into account the vast digital divide and resulting access imbalances; viz., this person at the other end of the screen typing in English is highly unlikely to be a Nepalese middle school student); such is an unfortunate bias of my own, a relic of a time past, and one that I am trying hard to correct. Still, to others, this bias remains de rigueur, or, at the very least, usually unobjectionable. I’ll post a picture of myself somewhere on the Internet where it’s germane to the topic, and I’m inundated with “What are you?”s and “Where are you from?”s. Guesses are, quite figuratively, all over the map: I’m apparently Italian, Puerto Rican, Brazilian, Filipino, and Arab all at once. Speculation becomes wilder if I throw in a picture of me with my (light-skinned, but ethnically identical) mother, with few believing she is my birth mother, even though I resemble her more than I resemble my father. To satiate the curiosity, I am an American of Mexican descent, with more distant ancestors from Ireland and Spain.

Spanning the years I’ve been alive, my personal, online identity has steadily changed from “I’m a guy browsing the Internet looking for cool things” as a kindergartener to one typified by confusion and occasional frustration with the parochial ways real life manifests itself throughout this media. Instead of being free from the shackles of socioeconomic class, race, ethnicity, nationality, and gender, all of these societal cues by which one is judged in the physical world apply equally, if not more so, online. A visual, judgmental macrocosm (real life) becomes several, anonymous, judgmental microcosms (everywhere on the Internet). Precisely because not everyone has the ability to have their voice heard, ignorance still remains ingrained in humans. The Internet has helped many voices spread further and be louder than they otherwise would, but it’s not yet enough. Filling the canyon that comprises the digital divide will get us closer to a truly peaceful society without ignorance of other cultures, peoples, and lifestyles. I, forever the idealist, believe it can happen if we put forth the (immense) effort.

But to those who suggest that the Internet, in its current state, has solved all of our problems and is a utopia of free thought because they cannot see the problems from their perspective (which is of no automatic fault of their own), I have but one response: how naïve!

This post was written by a student, and has been left unedited by the admin.

Pinterest: How to Plan Your Life as a Perfect Housewife

Pinterest is a predominantly female website and women are five times more likely than men to actively use Pinterest. Some of the most popular boards on Pinterest are Weddings, Home Décor, DIY (do it yourself), and Food. Young women and older women alike use Pinterst for their “home-making” needs. The gender digital divide is very prevalent on sites such as Pinterest and Reddit. Reddit similar to Pinterest in that is dominated by a certain gender, however it is predominantly males. The top categories on the Reddit website are Funny, News, and Gaming. There is a clear division between these two websites. The fact that these two websites are dominated by different genders shows that the Internet society believes each sex should perform certain roles.

Now although I am a current Pinterest user and love the site for recipes and projects, after further, deeper analysis, I realize the site clearly sets up specific expectations for women.  Pinterest is for the women to learn how to accurately perform her wife-like duties. By planning weddings and coming up with recipes, the women users fall into this specific role that has been around for centuries. Most women do not realize they are helping to create the stereotype, they just believe they are taking advantage of a useful website to help make their lives easier. I have no aversion to Pinterest and will continue to use the site, I just find it interesting that the gender gap is so large. The site is very feminine and that could be one reason there are not as many male users. The fact that the site is so catered to women helps ensure that more men do not join in on the pinning sensation. Pinterest being so feminine is causing the divide to only further increase because even if men want to learn more about home-making or cooking, they do not want to lose their masculinity by joining a website catered so specifically to women.

When deciding what to cook for dinner one night, my boyfriend was looking up recipes online. He was not having much luck finding something we both would enjoy and so he recommended I get on my Pinterest and find something. It took me all of five minutes to find the perfect meal for us to cook together. He knew very well what Pinterest was and that I use it quite often for looking up recipes, but he told me he could not warrant actually joining Pinterest because it is such a feminine media website. Pinterest and other websites dominated by one gender will continue to strive and this divide will continue to grow. Although some brave souls may venture into the other side and join a network dominated by the opposite sex, these will be minimal compared to the overall user demographic. Women will continue planning their weddings from a young age and how to become the perfect wife, and men will continue shying away from joining girlish websites.

This post was written by a student, and has been left unedited by the admin, with the exception of any hyperlinks.

Inside the Divide

After reading and researching about the digital divide, I have to say I don’t have it that bad. I got a new laptop I bought about a month ago and I have a smartphone. If my laptop and phone were to break, I could walk down to my university’s library and user their computers. Being a student has its perks. I’m usually eligible for student discounts and I (allegedly) get “free” Wi-Fi whenever I’m on campus. I’m taking a programming class and am therefore required that I have a computer to my disposal. Even in this class, I must have access to the internet to complete my tweet assignments and research papers. Education is adapting technology into its methods and as a result students have been given the responsibility to get access to a computer. I have the internet at my disposal any day of the week whether it be at home or at school. Accessibility is not an issue for me, especially living in Austin, a technology adapting city. My only complaint is that I’m forced to get service from Time Warner.

Even though I have all this technological access, I’ve always been a lurker online. The idea of making my personal life visible to others online has always made me anxious. However, I’m perfectly fine looking through the personal lives of others. My issue with combining my personal life and the internet is that I feel the pressure to be somebody else, somebody exciting, spontaneous, and full of life. Nobody on Facebook wants to know that I ate a bowl of lucky charms today. Nonetheless, the pressure of having online personas has always seemed a bit self-deprecating. Additionally, it makes it way too easy for people to creep on your life. Why are people so quick to put details of their intimate life online? However, I do often reddit against my own good will. Reddit can be horrible and sexist place. I’ll admit that sometimes I’ve been overwhelmed by the dominating male presence and annoyed by the plethora of boob comments on reddit. That’s not to say that reddit is strictly a misogynist place, although it is much more prevalent; there are also subreddits belittling males.  There is an obvious gender divide demonstrated by subreddits such as r/TheBluePill and r/TheRedPill, which both promote gender focused hatred. Why do I still keep going back to reddit if it’s so awful? It’s not all bad. Some subreddits are very welcoming and the diversity of reddit makes it impossible to not find a subreddit you like. There are still some places on the internet where I feel comfortable.

As far as my technological proficiency…well, I’m not great with computers, but I’m also not completely hopeless. Despite being part of the “Net Generation”, I often find myself just not getting technology. My six-year old nephew can use a tablet much more easily than I do. These past few years I’ve been growing alongside with technology, but I wasn’t born into all this great technological innovation like my nephew. I remember the first dinosaur-sized computer I had at home and dial-up internet. My mom would limit my internet usage because she was afraid we’d miss any important phone calls. Nonetheless, I feel as though I’m expected to be tech savvy because I was born into this generation, but technology overwhelms me. It’s not rare that I often find myself in front of my computer utterly bored when I have admission to various resources. Sometimes I just don’t know what to do with all this access technology gives us. I have the access to technology and a decent amount of knowledge to use it, but even I sometimes feel like I’m falling behind these rapid technological advancements.

This post was written by a student, and has been left unedited by the admin, with the exception of any hyperlinks.