Huffpost Technology
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Bill_Robinson Headshot

The New 'Digital Divide'

Posted: Updated:

2012-01-03-techscapelogocolumn.jpg

As I was sitting at the bar in my local New York City watering hole recently, a troubling realization dawned on me: there were 14 people, men and women, sitting at the bar and every single one of them was using a smartphone, their faces glowing eerily from the backlight.

I knew for a fact at least three of the women at the bar were unmarried and approaching or past 40 -- even if they were on Match or eHarmony at that exact moment searching out suitors -- did they not see that all they had to do was drop their omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent device and introduce themselves to the guy sitting next to them? Then, without their little demons demanding all their attention, something fun or unexpected or unpredictable might ensue ... like a conversation, a real conversation.

Or a kiss. Maybe even a proposal.

Two alarming statistics frame this column:

1) According to Morgan Stanley, 91% of Americans have their cell phones within reach, 24/7. This can't be good.

2) For the first time in human history, people around the world will spend more time per day looking at some kind of electronic, backlit screen than we will sleeping. Also, not good.

Maybe you've tried walking down a crowded Manhattan (or any other city for that matter) sidewalk without some oblivious drone who's texting away madly nearly running you over. Or a whole army of them; they come in waves, self-absorbed and 'communicating' like their lives depend on it. These people are unconscious and they're killing themselves in the process, walking out in front of cement mixers and the like. Honestly, I'm going to start wearing full football gear and mowing them all down as I walk without using my phone.

Now perhaps I got this wrong from the very beginning or misunderstood, but I thought the Internet and all these rampant technologies that have devices dripping off our bodies were supposed to bring us all closer together.

Why does it feel like technology is coming in between people?

As Jerry Seinfeld might someday say, "What's up with all this 'Technology Encroachment' into our human lives? Why can't we just live our lives without all these moronic machines?"

We are not all closer together. We are further apart when we are talking on our iPhones. We are further apart when we text our wife or husband on our Droid.

Don't you see, it is not creating any personal, human contact when we 'communicate' electronically? We can only be 'brought closer together' through direct human contact, face-to-face, where a handshake or a smile or a hug or a kiss can be personally delivered; no smiley faces or other emoticons can suffice.

Grandmothers were supposed to be happily e-mailing back and forth with their grandchildren, exchanging recent pictures and catching up on all the goings-on. I don't really see this vision coming true; the oldsters pretty much communicate in the same old ways.

And while 'Internet marriages' surely do occur, I don't know anyone who married somebody they found on the Net. I DO however, know a number of married couples who first met at concerts, bars, nightclubs or restaurants. You know, they met in a little, old-time place called "the real world."

And I almost can't wait for the first 'study' which analyzes the longevity of 'Internet marriages;' I cannot fathom them lasting any longer than traditional 'analog world marriages' and probably they will be much shorter. Perhaps eligible men and women still occasionally -- every once in a long while -- get together the old-fashioned way?

It still seems somewhat true that with the exception of the explosion of news availability, porn and gambling may still be the dominant industries in cyberspace. Not good.

Children were supposed to be learning exclusively on computers by now, and this may be one of the new realities today: most children are armed with iPads by their financially drained parents or school districts now but notice I said "most." Are all children learning on computers today? Most assuredly not.

The original 'Digital Divide' -- you know, the 'old skool,' analog-world one -- was about lack of computers or Internet access for those who couldn't afford it. It was supposed to be a real and serious problem that without a solution would damage our economy. I don't know about that claim now that I see the results of 'technologization' and see the parallel economies not using technology.

Wouldn't it be funny if an MIT study sometime soon reveals the stark truth? "People without Internet access and no smart phone are happier, tend to be happily married and only have a 2% unemployment rate."

From Our Partners