Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Digital Divide isn't all that Bad

Danah Boyd raised some interesting points about the class segregation that goes on in cyberspace. Her point about Facebook initially being just for privileged white kids was fairly accurate. In early 2007, I worked at a restaurant in downtown Ann Arbor. I remember the restaurant hosts were all University of Michigan students and one night a couple of them were complaining about the "riff-raff" coming onto Facebook. This elitist attitude about Facebook was definitely out there, but has gone away over the past few years.

A girl I know from middle school, that moved down south, just recently joined Facebook. Her family had a low income and they could easily be grouped in with the "Nascar" stereotype. Occasionally I would log into MySpace to see what was new with her. Most of the time the content posted would be considered of "low cultural" value and this plays into the point Boyd made about the low income divide.

"...Modern day white flight. Whites were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. The educated were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those from wealthier backgrounds were more likely to leave or choose Facebook. Those from the suburbs were more likely to leave or choose Facebook."

With that said, I think it's ridiculous to get angry at privileged white kids for wanting to separate themselves from the crowd of the uneducated. With sites like Linked In and The Ladders (Six-figure income members only allowed), it is clear that there is a demand for further cultural segregation online. Is this really a shocker or such a bad thing?

The basic premise that the internet should defy offline society's cultural issues is absurd. It is great to see the internet uniting so many, but there will always be some level of segregation present. Boyd is clearly overly liberal on these issues.

"We desperately need to address issues of access and media literacy to combat this, but we also need to re-engage around broader issues of inequality, intolerance, and social divisions."

So let me get this straight, you think that because a FREE website has attracted certain groups of people before others that we need to fix this? Do we need to put broadband internet in every low income home and give computers to those households as well? So because low income families often experience unemployment we need to pay for them to be able to access the internet to play Farmville on Facebook?

This is a prime example of being overly politically correct in the way our society as a whole interacts. The elite can't stand the under-educated, while the working class can't stand the snobbery of the wealthy. Trying to balance the two polar forces is extremely difficult.

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