Saturday, March 23, 2013

digital divide

Yesterday. I started a thread on a bipolar forum about feeling disconnected from the world.  It goes a long with my theme for "sprin-ter," feeling a bit like I'm not quite back in touch with the world yet.  Someone wrote back to me and said, "at least you have the internet."  I thought about how true that was.  My laptop is a saving tool and the internet a lifeline to help and community.

So many people who are mentally ill or severely addicted are in institutions, on the street, in shelters or just can't afford even a TV, let alone a computer and internet access and the education it takes to use a computer.  I was lucky enough to be in on the development of the internet in it's DOS stage because I was in school and could use the computers and get email.  It made all the difference in my education.  But when I was homeless in a shelter in South Downtown Miami, there was no internet.  I had to go all the way downtown to the public library to get on a computer - and only for an hour at a time.  I knew that I was lucky to know how to use one.

After the shelter helped me get into my own apartment I was living paycheck to paycheck, working at a hotel in Miami Beach.  I had no computer, no TV, and not even a phone.  It took some months, but I eventually saved up enough money for a little time at a cybercafe once in a while and that's how I reached out and got myself into a better situation.

It was through internet searches after that, that I found better employment and places to stay.  I don't know how I would have survived as I did without access to and knowledge of internet technologies.  If you're reading this, you're probably lucky enough to have some kind of access and some level of skill.  If you do, realize that you're one of the lucky ones.

The internet keeps me connected to friends at a distance, gives me a chance to participate in discussions with others like myself who are recovering from a dual diagnosis, and even enables me to have my own website and blog these days.  Without access to the internet (and yes, I spend a lot of time online) I really would be cut off from all but my family (and it should be noted that when you live alone, internet time is even more precious).  My therapist always wants me to go out and have more social interaction, but it's not easy to just meet people.  Besides, I don't drive and it's expensive to go out and do anything.  And for many of us with mental illnesses, it's challenging to deal more directly with people. So, she recognized that for me, the internet is a really big deal.

It's sad to me how many people are left behind as the digital divide gets wider.  I'm hoping that this blog will help people, but how many people could be helped who could never even see it?  I hope that someday, I can find a way to reach people on the other side of the divide and help them to cross it.  For now, I'm going to be counting my cyber blessings.

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