A Spoonful of Salt

A Spoonful of Salt
Please take everything you read with a grain of salt. But for this blog, please take it with a spoonful.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Great Divide: Internet Users vs. Non-users

There is a great divide growing in America and beyond between those who use the internet and those who do not. There are many reasons people do not use the internet such as ingnorance, not having access, plain unwillingness to grow with technology, or fear of the unknown. Many older Americans just dont see a use for it. They like to do things the old-fashion way like writing checks by hand instead of paying bills online, reading actual books to find information instead of using Google or Wikipedia, going shopping for birthday and Christmas presents at retail stores' physical locations instead taking advantage of the convenience of online shopping, or calling someone on the telephone instead of emailing them. Also, with all the bad news of identity theft shown in the media, many older adults fear that the internet is not very secure and is an unsafe place to do business.

My parents are the perfect example of this technological divide. My mom does everything on the internet from paying bills, checking credit card balances, gift shopping, to "facebooking" as she calls it, and my dad does not. In fact, my mom maintains a Facebook page FOR my dad because he doesn't know how. He has no interest in learning how either. My parents are older- in their 50s-6os. But they still have a lot of life ahead of them, and I don't think my dad should always depend on my mom to keep up with technology. God forbid she passes away, then how will the bills (that only get delivered electronically, for instance) get paid or gifts get bought (he is practically home-bound) etc, etc?

I started using the internet in high school to do research. For a time, the only time I would get online is to check my email, which wasn't often, and occasionally, I would play games like Mahjong and Scrabble online. Then, I discovered Myspace and I just thought it was so cool that you could connect with all your friends, change your profile song, picture and interactive backgrounds daily if you wanted to. Myspace was awesome! However, that was in 2004 before Facebook became available to the public (meaning you did not have to have a particular school affiliation to join). Technology has changed so much in the past few years that I now almost never use a PC or my laptop to get online; I can do it all from my smartphone. I get online to see what my friends and family are doing on Facebook, pay bills, punch out school assignments and emails, shop and do reseach- all this from my handheld computer that also happens to make phone calls a.k.a. my HTC Evo. The most amazing thing that the internet has given me is the opportunity to reconnect with relatives I haven't seen in years. One relative in particular has become so dear to me in the past few years since we found each other on Facebook that I am forever greatful to the internet for making our reunion possible.

The way that my mom and I are different in the way we use the internet is, as I said, I use my smartphone to surf the web, whereas she uses an outdated personal computer (but hey, it gets the job done!). She primarily uses the internet to bank online, pay bills and check balances, and only occasionally gets on Facebook. I however, pull up Facebook whenever there is a lull in my day or I am bored, and everything else is sort of secondary. I think this is common among my gerneration as boredom is just unacceptable to us. My maternal grandmother (my only living grandparent) wouldn't even know what to do with a computer much less be able to get online. I think this is because she has never been exposed to computers since she has never had to work. Because she can still use the telephone or snail mail to pay bills and take care of her business, I don't think this is a problem for her as of yet. Should she live very many more years, it might become a problem. Of course, she will always have one of her children or grandchildren to help her thus enabling her ingnorance. It would, however, benefit her to learn how to use a computer/the internet since she loves shopping. Although, I would be worried to see her credit card bill afterwards, she could have some fun on QVC.com!

Over the next few years, as the internet becomes more of a pervasive part of our daily lives, the divide between internet users and non-users is only going to widen. Internet users are going to have more of a competive edge over non-users in business and among their peers in general. Technology is moving forward and we must learn how to adapt and move forward along with it, otherwise we will be left behind.

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