Digital Divide Widens As Technology Grows More Complex

How many hours a day do you spend on Facebook? Is it enough time to fully understand the ins-and-outs of the platform and all its various uses?

I am a heavy Facebook user myself, but basic things like looking up a Facebook Page’s followers continue to prove difficult.


Imagine how tricky certain aspects of Facebook are to the casual user. What’s this messaging function? Is it email? Why does it look like a chat box? And so on…

Ryan Holiday, author of Trust Me I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator, points to a short list of attributes one must attain to become functionally literate in online media environments today.

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.

Holiday also suggests, if you work as a security guard or at the counter of a Wendy’s, our modern media environment is “significantly more difficult to track.” He asserts that a person’s reality (who is not in front of a computer all day) is shaped by the things that “tend to trickle about and from the Internet.” Meanwhile, the people with time and money inhabit another universe of free and paid information, that more closely resembles the news.

I might add there are degrees of media literacy to consider here. Apart from the inequity that Holiday addresses, we have our own literacy problems to address inside marketing communications. For instance, if you are hoping to sway security guards or retail counter workers on your client’s behalf, check yourself before coming up with a consumer-generated content idea that rolls out on Instagram.

We can also look to SEO and other technical marketing information as a media literacy problem inside our own industry. Last week, a poacher emailed one of my clients this subject line: Errors on your website. He then proceeded to point out a “canonical URL issue,” in hopes of winning new business.

It is my obligation as someone conducting business in the digital realm to know enough about such things to respond intelligently when my client asks, even though I don’t have a web dev background. Thankfully, I can ask the publisher of AdPulp about it. But the point remains, we’re all navigating an increasingly complex river of information. Power to the people who artfully simplify.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.