If you can read this, online, you’re a minority — but you knew that
Even though more than 80% of the world’s reading-age population can read, less than half are internet users. Now some of these non-users may be babies or Luddites or what have you, but I think it’s safe to say that the feeling of THIS being a way of connecting with the rest of the world is one that many of us don’t share.
Africa represents less than 10% of the world’s internet users, as does N. America, surprisingly — but that’s because of the enormous population of Africa (as well as of Asia) in comparison to N. America.
In N. America, though, about 9 of 10 of the pop are internet users versus about 3 of 10 in Africa, 4 of 10 in Asia, 5 of 10 in Middle Eastern and Latin American/Caribbean countries, and 7 of 10 in other western/European countries.
What are all of those offline others doing? Well, I guess they are living life, as we are, watching the weather, loving their babies, talking with friends about the future, helping one another through crises, etc. But how do they know whether they’re funny, clever, talented … or how many friends (or followers) they have? What/whom do they turn to for definitive answers to some of life’s most pressing questions or even the basic day-to-day conundrums? Where do they find out what’s worth reading … or even what they really want, think, and believe? How do they know who they truly are or which boots are best bets for this winter? How can they be sure they’re getting the sweetest deal on their hotel room for summer vacation?
At the end of the day, maybe the answers to all or most of these questions, for those seeking them in whatever manner, are essentially the same — in terms of the range of their validity. There’s so much we can never be sure of, so many questions with no simple answers. But what a bang-up job the internet does of helping us to forget (or at least buffering us from) the fundamental uncertainties of life! How many times have I come here feeling tired, hungry, and poor and left feeling better — that I know more, that I belong after all, and that I need not flail about or mess around with […] a moment longer. (I’ve had the opposite experience also, plenty, but that’s not important now.) TV works too, as does reading books or dancing like a wild thing all night long, and pretty much anything else that helps you escape the gray area between your ears for a while, but the internet works BEST — I think — for many of us. And that’s because it seems to say, so consistently and convincingly, in so, so, soooooo many words (and pictures and videos too), “Good news! Uncertainty is over! Everything you seek, wonder about, or need to know is HERE!” — for almost half of us anyway. And it’s good to get a break from the gray. Very good.
What do those others do?
Later/this morning: I woke with this post still in my head. I went to sleep last night feeling that I didn’t totally know what my point was here, but I decided to post it anyway. The rules of my blog seem to change along with my “is-it-ready-to-post?” criteria (playing games with our seven-year-old, just living with him and “the baby” [now an 18-month-old], just living — all have softened [I’ll just say] whatever rigidity [I’ll just say] I had in such areas).
But anyway, here I am, and back to that final line: What do the others do? An answer is that, same as in the online world, some find other good ways of escaping the gray, some are naturally inclined or learn to “sit with” it (to let it be), and others are very adept at sorting that gray into black or white, yes or no, stop or go, right or wrong, etc. — others EVERYWHERE, including in that parallel [?] offline universe where different stories are spun from the information that’s most accessible, spun and shared, taking hold. But what is my point? Maybe I don’t know/understand enough about the world to make it, but I think it’s something like this: that if you are reading this, anything, online, you are privileged in a way that most of the world is not AND that none of us truly has exactly what we think we have or can truly have what we’d like to have (not security, certainty, inviolable protection of our basic rights, a bond with the rest of humanity, etc.) until we all have a shot at having it.