Smartphones + The Digital Divide


Last week, my cable/wifi/electricity went out for about an hour in the middle of a storm, and maybe I freaked out a little bit. My phone battery was on 4%, Netflix was down, and the work I planned on finishing up that night was put to a halt. It ended up being a relaxing evening as I finished off a novel surrounded by candles and a flashlight, but nevertheless, my nightly routine was severely impacted by the lack of (mostly) necessary resources. Major #firstworldproblems, am I right?

This one hour without internet is a lifestyle for so many – cue the digital divide. For those who don’t know, the digital divide is “the growing gap between the underprivileged members of society, especially the poor, rural, elderly, and handicapped portion of the population who do not have access to computers or the internet; and the wealthy, middle-class, and young Americans living in urban and suburban areas who have access.” 

As I’m addressing the topic of digital divide, I want to note that I am so privileged – I have mega fast internet at home, unlimited data from my cellular provider, a laptop and desktop computer, a tablet, a smartphone, and probably other gadgets I’m forgetting about. To those reading this – take just a second to acknowledge that you’re probably reading this on a smartphone or computer and you’ve got it good.

One of my first thoughts surrounding the digital divide was: “maybe the addition of smartphones is bridging this digital divide.”

Are smartphones addressing the problem? They allow us to access the internet practically anywhere, without being forced to subscribe to broadband internet (wifi) at home. In fact, 1/3 of American’s don’t even have high-speed internet access at home, so that means a good chunk of smartphone users depend on data from cellular providers or free wifi.

Let’s look at a scenario where internet is necessary: applying for college.

Most college applications, like The Common Application, are done entirely online. From researching potential colleges to writing application essays and saving them as PDFs, practically the entire process is done over the internet and on a computer.

Completing this process on a smartphone seems like an absolute nightmare to me for a few reasons:

  • Small phone screens don’t compare to computer screens – images may be cut off and text could be obscured in a “mobile view.”
  • Personally, I usually have 5-10 tabs open at a time when completing projects – switching back and forth between tabs on a smartphone makes the process timely.
  • How would I type a paper on a phone? Is that even a thing? If it was, where would I save it?
  • Is it possible to submit proper documents on a smartphone like reference letters and transcripts? If it is, it probably isn’t easy.

Are smartphones helping those without broadband at home get online? Yes.

Are smartphones the answer to bridging the digital divide? No.

Here’s a few options for addressing the addition of smartphones, but lack of broadband internet and personal computers in households:

  • Investing into community centers and public libraries that offer computers and reliable internet free of charge
  • Giving students time at or after school to use computer labs
  • Government-subsidized internet for low-income households
  • Economically-priced personal computers
  • Adapting applications and school assignments to become mobile-friendly

Technology convergence isn’t narrowing the digital divide – let us remain vigilant in identifying and strategizing the best solutions that will.


Changing Social Media Landscapes

Incorporating social media into corporate and personal communication strategies can be a strategic investment. From delivering personalized customer service to building brand reputation and identity, social media empowers people to connect with their audience in ways that were once impossible.

Another thing about social media – it’s always changing. Platforms are being added, subtracted and updated to better meet the needs of their consumers, and this makes it difficult for even the biggest of social enthusiasts to keep up with the latest and greatest.

Cue Brian Solis, digital analyst who sought to share the digital transformation of social media through a handy infographic: The Conversation Prism. And just like social media is constantly evolving, the Conversation Prism has gone through multiple versions to keep up with the current landscape. The objective of the Conversation Prism is to help anyone better understand and engage with the current state of social media.


The latest, Conversation Prism 5.0, has some distinguishable changes compared to its predecessor (4.1).



4.0.jpgHere’s some takeaways from the two latest Conversation Prisms:

  • YOU are always in the center: Let’s face it – it’s practically impossible to establish a meaningful presence on every single platform. That’s why it’s critical for you to establish what your main goals are in using social media. In both prisms, it always starts with you.
  • Listen, Engage, Learn, and Co-Create are the newest and next best steps: Solis adjusted the pillars for meaningful engagement (vision, purpose, value, commitment and transparency) and redefined them in a broader, simpler way to digest.
  • Goal Focused, not Business Focused: Rather than dividing the outer halo by businesses departments (HR, sales, etc.), Solis adjusted the prism to help the viewers better understand the main functions of each platform. For example: Let’s say I want to listen to what the influencers are saying about video collaboration – according to the 5.0 prism, I should look at platforms to listen to what contributors on AllExperts or Quora are talking about regarding the latest video collaboration technologies.
  • Some platforms are changing categories: While Pinterest fell into the Social Curation category in 4.0, it jumped to Social Commerce in 5.0 after the addition of the “Buyable Pins” feature.
  • New platforms call for new categoriesConnecting IRL wasn’t even a thing for 4.0 because apps like Tinder, Bumble and vina weren’t big yet. As new social platforms emerge, new categories will follow.

It’s All In The Family

After recently moving, I had to switch my internet/cable/telephone provider to Xfinity (Comcast) because my old company didn’t service my new area. Now, if you do a quick google search on the companies with the worst customer service, Comcast consistently ranks at the tops of those lists. Much to my dismay, my choices were very limited (like so limited Comcast was the only provider) and I was forced to go with a company I didn’t want to support because internet and television are major necessities in my household.

They did happen to include Netflix access directly on their cable box and gave me a voice-operated remote control, so I’ll let the terrible customer service slide for the time being.

If you didn’t know, Comcast is probably the king of global telecommunications conglomerates. The amount of assets they own is seems to be never ending.

To name just a few:

  • NBC Universal (which is huge in itself)
  • Universal Parks & Resorts
  • DreamWorks Animation
  • Comcast Cable Communications (Xfinity)
  • Philadelphia Flyers

They recently came out with a mobile phone plan that I’m considering purchasing, just because it’s cheaper and more convenient to have all my bills under one roof. That’s one of the clear advantages of media convergence – convenience.

With Comcast, I can stream This Is Us (favorite NBC show) on my iPad through the Comcast cable app using Comcast’s wifi and then call my best friend using my Comcast powered wireless phone to recap the episode and talk about how many times I cried.

Comcast really epitomizes both roles of media convergence – they have made media channels like television and telephone available on a singular platform like an iPad, and they participate in a cross platform business model by consolidating so many media holdings under one name.

They Don’t Want You To Spot Fake News

When it came to finding a fake news source for this blog post, I had absolutely no problems because I already know the queen of fake news – a family member near and dear to my heart. I’ve tried, on multiple occasions, explaining to her that these Facebook “news sources” she gets her news from are not trustworthy. But, because her best friend also likes and shares these articles, she won’t hear me out. I’ve learned to pick and choose my battles.

As a Political Science major and PR pro, it hurts every time I  see the fake news headlines pop up as I scroll through Facebook: “Hillary Clinton Pays Liberals to Abort Every White, Male Baby Because She Hates America.”

Did I just make that headline up? Or was it really published? The fact you even have to assess whether this headline is real or fake shows there is a problem.

On a lighter (read: non-political) note, my sweet family member shared this gem of a post the other day:

Resort kill horse after Dj Khaled broke its back during video shoot [VIDEO]

She captioned it with “The poor animal didn’t deserve this.”

When I first read this headline, I actually considered whether it could be true. To be fair, I have zero background when it comes to the weight capacities of horses. It does have a clickbaity ring to it, but it also literally has [VIDEO] written in the headline, so does that mean there’s a video of DJ Khaled breaking a horse’s back?


Spoiler Alert: No, DJ Khaled not break any horse’s back. He did go horseback riding on his recent vacation to the Bahamas and shared a video montage of his horseback riding adventure, but that horse is alive and well.


Christina Turner and the horse DJ Khaled wrode standing next to an 18 July 2017 copy of the Nassau Guardian newspaper. (Courtesy of Christina Turner). Source:

Thank God for Snopes, am I right?

Even though fake news isn’t a new concept, the rise of social media is changing the way we digest our news, making it more difficult to discern which headlines are 100% truthful. There’s an unprecedented amount of media being thrown at us every single day, whether it’s through our Facebook and Twitter feeds or during our favorite radio show we listen to on our morning commute.

Fortunately, big internet companies like Facebook are taking action by banning and filtering fake news, but fake headlines will still fall through the cracks – this is why being media literate is so important. We, as daily consumers of media, can slow the momentum of fake news by (a) thinking critically about what messages are true and (b) not sharing said messages and flagging them as fake news.

How can you practice media literacy? Be skeptical and consider your sources. If a headline sounds like breaking news that is too good (or bad) to be true, then it probably is. If you’re still really unsure if it’s fake news, resist the urge to click through and google it on your own.

In order to develop an informed understanding of the media messages we encounter, we have to be critical of their motives. Although the Shakeweight infomercial tells me I won’t be able to live without it, I can critically assess that’s not true and they probably just want my money. By practicing media literacy, we’re not only combatting the spread of fake news, but also challenging the the way media impacts our thoughts and decisions. In the end, we’re left with less manipulation and better perspective on the things surrounding us in our day-to-day lives.