I had to take a one-day trip to Boca Raton, FL this week to attend a family event. During my trip, I met several people (of a certain age) who feigned interest in my profession. I was drawn into conversation after conversation where I had to defend the existential necessity of digital literacy. Would it be cliché for me to tell you how many of these individuals had flip phones? Would it be stereotypical to describe the number of doctors, lawyers and retired investors who have their secretaries print out their emails? Would it be hackneyed to recount the pridefully ignorant way that each individual espoused the reasons they lead an unconnected life? Perhaps. But, based upon the hundreds of emails I received requesting a follow-up to last week's article, "Are You Employable In 2012," I'm going to give it a shot.
An attorney, who has a remarkably successful practice in South Florida, told me that he doesn't see any reason to follow the industry trend of hiring electronic discovery experts. He boasted to me that remaining antiquated protected his practice from modern invasive electronic discovery techniques. He went on to tell me how he knew all about this "tech stuff," but it just wasn't important enough for him to invest in it. I pointed out that we were in the Information Age and that practically everyone who communicated did so using digital tools. About five seconds into my response, I just changed the subject; I am not prepared to argue with the pridefully ignorant.
I have about ten other examples of this kind of insanity, but I'm sure you get the point. So, if you are willing to think about overcoming the digital divide in 2012, let's go over a few key points.
First, and foremost, inject yourself in the process. If you want to become more digitally literate as a means of enhancing your ability to transfer the value of your intellectual property into wealth, you must dive in. How? Start by listening.
Do you have a Facebook profile? If not, go sign up now. It is extraordinarily easy. If you are daunted by the task, screw your courage to the sticking place and click this link http://www.facebook.com. Follow the instructions. If you can read, you can get this done in less than 10 minutes. Don't worry about your privacy settings right now. You're not going to do anything on Facebook today that will compromise your privacy, or open you up to identity theft. I promise.
Once you have a Facebook profile, start sending friend requests to your actual friends. Resist all temptation to make it a popularity contest – just invite people you know well. And, only friend people you know well. Once you've got a bunch of Facebook friends, start listening. Forget about your wall and your profile page, just watch the news feed. It will only take a few days for you to start understanding what Facebook should (and should not) be used for in your community.
Want to get more into social media? Join some groups. There are Facebook groups on almost every subject you can think of. Join, and just listen. There's no need to post anything until you are ready.
Next, do exactly the same thing with Twitter. Set up a profile page, start following people you know and people you want to know and work with and just listen. It is the fastest way to become digitally literate in the world of social media.
If you want to interact with people on Twitter, consider replying to their Tweets instead of just Tweeting stuff out. It changes the dynamic of Twitter and will make you an instant part of the community.
The world is bifurcated. There are only two types of people and two types of devices: connected and not connected. The mantra of the pridefully ignorant is: "Digital is for kids!" If you wish to be pridefully ignorant, keep saying it. You will soon fade into complete unemployability and communicative irrelevance.
To lead a connected life, you need to be connected. This means having a smartphone and learning to use it. If you really don't want a smartphone, get a tablet (like an iPad) or a high-end color e-reader (like the Kindle Fire) and carry it with you everywhere. You will need a device to be connected to the Internet – you can't connect without a device, get one!
Not a smartphone, nor a tablet person? Tough! You need to be. So get with the program. The only way to make this leap is to make it.
How will you know what gear to buy? It doesn't matter what you get as long as you get something. iPhone, Android – I don't care. You won't care either, at least not now. There will come a time when you will care, at that point you will make another purchase and you won't need anyone's advice about what it will be.
Lastly, make a New Year's resolution to learn how to use some keyboard shortcuts and some digital productivity tools. It could be as simple as forcing yourself to use all of the Microsoft Word keyboard shortcuts for formatting, or as adventurous as installing Text Expander (Mac) or Phrase Express (PC) to enhance your word processing efficacy. Like I said, the only way to become digitally literate is to inject yourself in the process – enhanced productivity is a big step towards that commitment.
Although I was brutally attacked by a hoard of pridefully ignorant technophobes in Boca Raton, I escaped. I hope you will too.
Shelly Palmer is the host of NBC Universal‘s Live Digital with Shelly Palmer, a weekly half-hour television show about living and working in a digital world. He is Fox 5 New York‘s On-air Tech Expert (WNYW-TV) and the host of Fox Television’s monthly show Shelly Palmer Digital Living. He also hosts United Stations Radio Network‘s, MediaBytes, a daily syndicated radio report that features insightful commentary and a unique insiders take on the biggest stories in technology, media, and entertainment. He is Managing Director of Advanced Media Ventures Group, LLC an industry-leading advisory and business development firm and the President of the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, NY (the organization that bestows the coveted Emmy® Awards). Palmer is the author of Television Disrupted: The Transition from Network to Networked TV 2nd Edition (York House Press, 2008) the seminal book about the technological, economic, and sociological forces that are changing everything and the upcoming, Overcoming The Digital Divide: How to use Social Media and Digital Tools to Reinvent Yourself and Your Career (York House Press, 2011) For more information, visit shellypalmer.com
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