As a result of the rapid Internet expansion and its constantly growing potential, the gap between the developed and the developing world has been intensified adding one more aspect. While the citizens of western societies have the world information at their fingertips the citizens of the developed word are striving to overcome the dark ages of information deprivation due to lacking technological infrastructure.
Another July evening in Switzerland…and though I should have been out enjoying the summer day by the lakes in St. Gallen, was in my apartment trying to accept it was 11 degrees of Celsius and rainy. Not much to do besides working on my participatory media research through Facebook, which admittedly can be a great source of entertainment!
Apparently, among others, Facebook had just launched a new notification feature about your friends marital status on the news feed column right on top of the birthday alerts.
While browsing the recent posts, I realized that one of my friends wrote on the wall of a newly wed girl and wished her for her birthday; which were in December. I was confused for a good 30 seconds and then it hit me: he did not interpret the little heart as a marriage indication but simplified it as a birthday reminder. Him being a good friend of mine, I felt I had to save his “Internet dignity” thus I sent him a PM saying that he should not wish happy birthday to a newly wed! Confident in his Facebook literacy, he confronted me saying: “Why do you say this? Is it unacceptable to wish happy birthday to a married woman? I thought you were more progressive than that!”
Few messages later, the confusion was resolved and the outdated post was immediately deleted.
Apparently, the digital divide is not only a matter between people in developing and developed countries or between digital immigrants and natives. The digital divide is evident even across people with the same demographics. Social Media competence and keeping up with the new Internet features is not everyones strongest skill, especially when taking into consideration the constant technological developments. Technological changes make the social media world more interesting but also more challenging to keep up with.
This entertaining example brings to light the true problems citizens face when it comes to on line participation initiatives or even when they just try to manage their own presence on line. Having access to the Internet does not mean that people have the knowledge to use the Internet applications properly or even if they do, they might lack the time to keep up with the software updates of existing applications already in use.
These technological changes should be addressed and approached on a governmental level as Internet literacy is key to citizen empowerment.