A Great Divide

The Haves and the Have Nots

As I study emerging media and how it has changed the communication landscape, a question emerges:  Does emerging media help humanity to be more connected or does its existence create a greater divide?  In her article published in Technical Communicators Quarterly entitled, Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making: Technical Communication Between the Global North and South, Bernadette Longo writes,

“Even when we do include input from users in our design decisions and revisions, we should keep in mind that the majority of people in the world still do not have access to devices that would allow them to participate in this design community equitably.  Yet, our actions still affect the lives of people without access, for example, the miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo who dig with their hands to give us rare minerals for making smart phones and other mobile devices.”

So, with all the wonderful new ways to communicate, feel connected, do research, and increase our awareness of what’s happening in the world, it is important to be cognizant of the fact that most of the people in our world do not have the ability to access publicly available online services (PAOSs).

In contrast to those miners in the Democratic Republic of Congo, knowledge workers across the globe are using PAOSs for many tasks, both personally and professionally.  These tasks include developing associations with others, researching, and sharing personal information.  They regularly access Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, blogs, Skype, Google Maps, etc., to learn and communicate on a global level.  In their article, Technical Communication Unbound:  Knowledge Work, Social Media, and Emergent Communicative Practices, Tony Ferro and Mark Zachry report on the results of a survey of professional technical communicators and their use of emerging media.  They wrote,

“On average, participants reported using PAOSs for work between 20% and 27% of their workweek.”

While, in some societies, emerging media is a significant part of work and personal life, in others, it is virtually non-existent.  Does the fact that less than half the population of the world doesn’t have access to PAOSs cause a divide between them and those who do have access?  How does this affect our world, how people vote, what they know about the world, how they communicate and how they feel?  More study needs to be done on this.  As the various webs of social media grow and become more complex, those who have access continue to grow, learn and communicate while the majority of people cannot.  They can’t Skype with a relative who lives far away, have instant access to global headline news or do research online.  They are living in a world that is decades behind those who have this wonderful access.

Promising Trends

Although a divide exists, there are some promising trends happening globally.  Statista.com is just one resource for information that can shed light on how many people across the globe are active with emerging media.  One study shows that in 2010, about .97 billion people had a social media profile.  But, by the year 2019, it is estimated that this number will grow to about 2.77 billion.

Number of social media users in billions

social media (1)



When we consider the fact that more than 7.4 billion people live on the Earth, it’s enlightening that less than half the population is active on social media.  While activity on social media is just one indicator of a person’s overall use of PAOSs, this still help to put our connectedness (or disconnectedness) into perspective.



Posted on September 30, 2018, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. Hello Amery,
    This is a terrific blog post. I am from a generation that is struggling to keep up with social media, so I haven’t understood the value of incorporating that into teaching. However, this class, along with the fact that I am a Communication Specialist on a Branding & Communications team, has helped to enlighten me. I fully agree that using social media can and will help our students be prepared for their careers. I am a perfect example. I have had to learn it all on the job. If I could’ve entered my current position with more social media experience, I would be that much better at it.
    Your comments about using more visuals is spot on. I work with people from all age groups. I notice that those who are under 35 years old are much more visually oriented when it comes to how they like to receive communication. So, we work to make sure the information we are sending out is received by everyone in our audience – those who like visuals, those who prefer reading words, and even videos. In fact, video training is becoming increasingly popular and is being offered in addition to written instructions and instructor led training.
    The last thing I want to mention is how important it is that we don’t lose our ability to write well. I see so many people focusing on creating infographics, presentations, and videos, but their writing abilities are at a pretty low level. They misspell easy words, write run-on sentences, and repeat the same word over and over. So, I do think that our focus on the visual and social media has created an atmosphere where people don’t have to write well.

  2. Amery,

    I, too, was struck by the content of this article and spoke to a similar end in my blog post as well. I understand the advantages of being super connected and using every resource at our fingertips to better our content. However, I agree with Longo that it creates a somewhat exclusive society when we stop to consider those who do not have social media access or constant connectedness. I have spent the last several years doing tasks for my mom such as filing her taxes online, checking her car payment balance and making the payment – pretty much anything that involves more than a few clicks in an app on her phone has to be done by me. There is just no possible way that ALL voices are truly heard through social media and what changes can be made to rectify the situation?

    Great post!


  3. Amery,

    Thanks for your post this week. I think it’s difficult to gauge attitudes about social media use across the population. You say, “When we consider the fact that more than 7.4 billion people live on the Earth, it’s enlightening that less than half the population is active on social media.” It is enlightening, it opened the question for me about how those numbers different from the US population. I think these low numbers have less to do with attitudes about social media and connectedness and more to do with available resources in other countries and across various populations. Using that same source, https://www.statista.com, looking at only the United States population we can see much different trends, with 77% of the U.S. Population maintaining an active social media presence online in 2018. (https://www.statista.com/statistics/273476/percentage-of-us-population-with-a-social-network-profile/)

    I think it would be interesting to find a study on social media attitudes by country, and then compare usage. But I find it difficult to hold that it’s a neutral or positive thing that many people across the world are off social media. Not necessarily because I think social media is an inherently positive thing in a person’s life, but it does remove the connectedness a person has to viewpoints that might be “other” than what they know. I do agree with you that it’s difficult to tell how it “affects our world, how people vote, what they know about the world, how they communicate and how they feel” and that indeed more studies need to be done on this. It would be interesting to see what conclusions are out there about this information,

    Thanks for the thoughtful post.


  4. Amazing post that reminds us of the global nature of the Internet as well as the age demographics. Even though the cyberliteracy definitions we started with this semester may be from the early 2000s, I think they captured the speed and reach with which we communicate, no matter what device or app we use!

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