Monthly Archives: March 2011

The Other Digital Divide

One day I was on Facebook checking out my newsfeed and a friend of mine, young, under 30 and a techie posted about some music he was enjoying — which I happen to enjoy as well.  I commented and requested he make me a CD.  One of his friends responded with some comments about file sharing and such and that with technology there's much simpler ways to enjoy music now.  The mama in me wanted to check this young'n but I decided against it. My friend who made the original post was eerily silent.  When I talked to him the next day I said, asked "why do you guys do that?" that, as in why do you young folks (under 30) treat us middle age and old folks like we're dinosaurs?  He wouldn't touch that question but has often commented that I (at the prime age of 44) am more the exception than the norm for folks my age when it comes to being interested in technology.  What I have found (informally) is that my set IS consisted of dinosaurs with some exceptions.
Now I'm not an expert on technology, however I've had a computer in the home or had access to one since 1984 (my friend mentioned above was all of 2 years old).  My family was fortunate, my dad is an audiophile and has subsequently become quite gadgety (he bought the first gen iPad when it was released).  As such I've always had an interest in all things technology, not the means to purchase 😉 but definitely the interest.  
If it weren't for technology, the internet/interwebs and such I would have to do things the old fashioned way like use a map/call for directions, go to the library and spend hours in front a microfilm machine to research an old article, write a check, use a stamp and envelope to mail a bill.  Thank GOD for technology!  However my random sample of peers, older folks and some slightly younger folks (no one under 30) think that technology is:
  • Dangerous
  • Of the devil
  • Scary
  • Too difficult to understand
  • For young folks
Which is unfortunate because it can quite literally open up the entire world to you.  What's interesting is that while I was researching this piece, I researched it from a statistical viewpoint — I am 44 and an accountant by day so hard data/numbers are my thing and my cursory glance at what I found gives me a bit more hope than what my small sample of friends and family bore out.  My peers and upwards aren't necessarily technophobes, we just use it differently and not as much as our younger counter parts.

My first look was at a piece from AARP for the over 50 crowd.  From their phone survey they found that 40% of persons over 50 are comfortable using the internet and of those 57% use the internet from a desktop while only 4% use the internet on a mobile (phone) device. 27% of the 50+ set use social media, with Facebook (23%) being the primary destination.  This AARP study also overlayed a sample of  50+ Hispanics whose numbers are about half of the majority population sampled.  (Those numbers are part of the real digital divide, which is another discussion).  

The second piece that I stumbled upon was a great summary of tons of statistics on technology usage  of all kinds by all different age groups and it again, the stats here show that my peers aren't necessarily averse to technology we just use it differently.  For instance most of my peers and up have cell phones, but we talk on them more than we text on them and we have very low usage of the mobile web.  According to an FCC study 86% of all Americans own cell phones but the biggest users of mobile internet (48%) are between 19 and 29 while only 5% of 65+ folks use the mobile web.  

What does all this mean?
That the middle aged and older aren't as far behind as the young folks think, however we have some catching up to do.  That the generations might spend a little more time teaching, learning and sharing in lieu of criticizing, but how do we get this done?  That will be next post?  How we close the digital age divide?

Note:  the old broad wrote a draft of this post in Evernote using an HP dv6-3120.  The post appears on Typepad and is cross-posted from Friendfeed to Twitter :=)


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