The Internet Communication Divide

“I don’t go on the Internet. I read!’

“Message board… is that a blog?”
“No, I think it’s a chat room.”

“If all the information is on a website, I guess we’ll have to get more computer savvy.”

Yes, these are real quotes, from Saturday, June 13, 2009. Guess what. Just because you know enough about the Internet to read this page, doesn’t mean that the whole world does. And when you’re in a room of baby boomers and their parents, folks who don’t work in high tech, chances are, you know more about today’s Internet communication than a good many of the people around you.

Me? I consider myself extremely lucky. Monday through Friday, I work in high tech, and get to be around some of the most hip, Internet-savvy people on the planet. On weekends, in my church environment, I get to be with lots of baby boomers and their parents. I have loads of admiration for these people. They were the women’s libbers of the seventies. The human rights activists of the sixties. The workers and parents and teachers and community leaders who drove prosperity and innovation for decades. Many are still at it, years after retirement, working on social justice and homelessness and health care and other causes – unsatisfied with the status quo, still determined to make the world a better place.

I can’t bear the thought of all these wonderful people not understanding the wealth of communication avenues offered by today’s Internet. Internet technology should not create a gap between these people and their children and grandchildren! Internet technology should not be a Communication Divide, keeping their ideas and ideals from us and our children!

I won’t have it. I’m going to do something about it.

I have an ulterior motive. I’m an Episcopalian. Episcopalians, like other major denominations of Christianity in the U.S., are in decline in active membership. Half of the Episcopal church is over the age of 50 – over 3 and a half million people in the U.S. [1] If only 25% of those are only on the Internet as users of search engines and e-mail, unconnected to the other generations who have embraced Internet communication in all its forms – hundreds of thousands of people are on the other side of an Internet Communication Divide. How can they do the work of the Laity [2] beyond their peer group?

Sure, they can still communicate via face-to-face conversations and e-mail and telephone and printed newsletters and books and lectures and study groups and newspaper articles and letters to the editor and magazine articles and rallies and other communication forms I’m forgetting. But how many of today’s youth, and today’s busy working adults, sit down and read newspapers and magazines, books and newsletters, and go to lectures and study groups and rallies? Sure, some do. But how many of them are also communicating via social networks like Facebook and LinkedIn and Plaxo? Instant messaging on Yahoo and AIM, and related chat rooms? Broadcast messaging like Twitter? Blogs and websites and RSS feeds and message boards and discussion forums for the organizations and causes and hobbies and thought leaders they care about?

The Internet is supposed to be about connecting people. Not dividing them! Internet communication technologies aren’t rocket science. They can be explained. Not just can be. Must be.

I cannot abide having all of these people over 50, whom I admire so much, in the church that mattered so much to my grandfather and great-grandmother [3] and [4], living on the other side of an Internet Communication Divide. I’m going to do something about it. Yes, I have done a little, but yesterday I realized that there is more work to be done. A lot more. And It Matters.

Would you like to help? You can start, by filling out this survey.

[1] Report of the House of Deputies Committee on the State of the Church in the Blue Book for the 2009 General Convention of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America p.4-5.
[2] “To “represent Christ and his Church; to bear witness to him wherever they may be; and, according to the gifts given them, to carry on Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world; and to take their place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church” – from Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America p. 855
[3] My maternal grandfather, Hume Talcott Stith, Jr., a CPA and father of four who served faithfully in various roles at the parish, diocese, and regional level of the Episcopal Church in South Carolina, including helping to start St. Michael’s and All Angels. A favorite quote of his was “Communication is the name of the game.” I was blessed with the opportunity to give this remembrance at his funeral.
[4] My maternal grandfather’s mother, Elizabeth Davis Stith, also known as “Bessie” and “Grandbessie”, a mother of three, a missionary to the Navajo Indians in her youth, and a vocal dissenter to the adoption of “the new prayer book”.

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3 Responses to The Internet Communication Divide

  1. Liz Gregoy (the only) says:


    Let me know what you come up with as a way to introduce them to it.

  2. Pingback: Hair On Fire « Jars of Water

  3. Pingback: The Dark Side « Jars of Water

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