For as long as I can remember I’ve been better at the internet than most people. I have a feeling most of the people reading this feel the same way.
We laugh at people who can’t figure out technology because it’s so hard to believe people really think some of these things are true. Here’s an example from last week of what internet illiterate people are passing around:
If you didn’t fall for this 15 years ago when people were promising that AOL was “testing a new email tracking” program and you’d get $75 if you forwarded it to everyone you knew, you’re not falling for it now. That’s the outcome of wasting time on the internet for most of your life. It seems like such a silly thing to view as a “skill”, but it is. There are tons of people who actually don’t know how to navigate the internet.
Ryan Holiday wrote a really great article about this on tech blog BetaBeat. He argues:
What I think we forget–or worse, never even realized—is the extreme privilege often inherent in “digital literacy.”
Yes, much of the Internet is free. But it takes time and energy to develop the skills and habits necessary to successfully derive value from today’s media. Knowing how to tell a troll from a serious thinker, spotting linkbait, understanding a meme, cross checking articles against each other, even posting a comment to disagree with something–these are skills. They might not feel like it, but they are. And they’re easier to acquire the higher your tax bracket.
In the future, Holiday continues, digital literacy will be more important than ever:
All of this calls to mind Tyler Cowen’s haunting new book, Average is Over. In it, Mr. Cowen argues that we are heading toward a world of radical disparity, à la 1% vs 99%, but applied not only to wealth but all facets of society. Those who are adroit at technology, media and marketing will find themselves increasingly wealthy, while those who are not will watch their incomes and access fall.
In a way we are already seeing this. My friends in tech and finance are living it up in San Francisco and New York, easily able to pay obscene rents and call up an Uber black car whenever they don’t feel like waiting five minutes or walking two blocks to get a cab or ride the subway. Meanwhile, the rest of the country is moving to the smoggy suburbs of Houston so they can furnish their families with some semblance of the American dream.
People praise the benefits of raising your kid to be bilingual. In addition to the content of the skill–knowing a second language, fluency comes with the perk of teaching you how languages work. This is true of digital literacy–it’s not just about the actual things you learn. The more you know, the easier it is to learn more because the logic behind different systems is similar.
There’s so many people talking about how fucked kids are these days because they communicate primarily through phones. I know this firsthand, my nephews (8 and 10) will play with me for a bit when they visit, but spend the rest of the time texting, Snapchatting, and playing games on their iPhones. But it’s the wrong attitude to assume something is bad just because it’s new.
Being a heavy technology user isn’t a detriment to their future, it’s an asset. Imagine how the kid who’s parents banned social media will compete with kids who grew up learning 1) how to use the internet 2) the psychology of how people use technology (a massively important tool in marketing) and 3) how to brand themselves via their online presence. I wouldn’t want to one of them.