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The Digital Divide or How Technology is Changing Behavior

Escrito por Tony Dillistone el 23/04/2019 a las 20:04:21

(Partner MediaMojos)

Toni Dillistone


When we think of the term “Digital Divide,” many of us, particularly those who are in the business of addressing and bridging it, define it simplistically as the socio- economic and other disparities between those countries and segments of society who have opportunities and skills enabling them to benefit from digital resources, especially the Internet, and those who do not have these opportunities or skills.


Interaction between people and digital devices has greatly increased as we move through the twenty-first century. The ability to access computers and the Internet has become increasingly important to completely immerse oneself in the economic, political, and social aspects of not just the U.S., but also of the world.


Digital Divide


The number of Americans with access to digital devices and the Internet continues to soar on a yearly basis, adopting newer technologies faster; increasingly relying on them for a variety of daily tasks, entertainment and information.


And, that’s a “good thing,” right? The capability to have the wisdom of the ages at our fingertips (and to view cute cat videos on Facebook anytime/anywhere).


But as we move forward into this brave new world, it’s important to look at the impact, and unintended societal and psychological consequences, of our “always-on” use of digital devices. We are beginning to see a number of studies that warn against “too many” hours of online activity to the detriment of social interaction. We are realizing that in many cases hyper-connectivity is contributing to social disconnection amongst all segments of our society.


This growing divide between norms of the past and the rapidly changing ones of the present is compellingly explored in a new book (released April, 2019) authored by lecturer at the University of Southern California, and member of the Infrastructure Masons Board of Directors, digital sociologist Dr. Julie M. Albright.


In “Left To Their Own Devices: How Digital Natives are Reshaping the American Dream,”  
Dr. Albright lays out the case that constant connectivity and always-on screens have made us
an untethered society;  a disruption of age-old societal norms in which “ties to people, places, jobs, traditional processes, and organizing structures in society - like churches and political parties - are being weakened, broken, and displaced by digital hyper-connectivity."


Entertainingly and thoughtfully combining personal interviews with historical context and scientific methodology, Albright poses and addresses such questions as, “What are the effects of being disconnected from traditional, stabilizing social structures like churches, marriage, political parties, and long-term employment? What does it mean to be human when one's ties to people, places, jobs, and societal institutions are weakened or broken, displaced by digital hyper-connectivity?” 


From the books introduction - “Millennials are rewriting the rules. Millennials are the largest generation to come along since the Baby Boomers and are the largest group in both the workforce and consumer market since 2015. Due to their sheer numbers alone, their values, behaviors, and attitudes matter. Millennials are young, tech-savvy, and – increasingly - non-White. This combination of changing socio-demographic factors, their population size, and their tendency to want everything filtered through a digital interface means they will leave an indelible mark on society. Enabled by mobility and digital connectivity, the sum total of these changes represents the emergence of a new social contract with vast implications for the social, economic, and political environments whose impacts will be as significant and far reaching as that of the printing press of the Industrial Revolution.”


The sea-change of social disconnection based on hyper-connectivity is one which affects all of us. Fundamentally, we all benefit from more human connection, not less; and we must look at the social consequences for coming generations. And while we have gained some advantages, including new connections, perhaps we have lost something of ourselves, as well.


And part of that, as addressed by Dr. Albright, and tackled in a recent piece in Columbia Business Schools journal, includes a disconnect with nature. Per the CBS article:
“Want a Breakthrough Idea? Take a Hike.”

I’ll meet you at the trailhead.