I'm Brett Slatkin and this is where I write about programming and related topics. You can contact me here or view my projects.

06 April 2013

Tech bubble: Your problems aren't everyone's problems

The other day I saw a tweet go by that made me think twice:

The idea that this issue is big enough to win the popular vote for President seemed questionable.

I wondered:

  • Who would want to use electronics during takeoff/landing?
  • How many people actually own a smartphone or tablet at all?
  • And how many people fly on an airplane regularly anyways?

If you are reading this, chances are you fall in these categories and so do your peers. But the real answers are surprising.

The data

Baseline for perspective: 81% of US adults use the Internet. 67% of them are on Facebook. (Pew)

87% of Americans have a cellphone, but only 45% have a smartphone. 31% have a tablet. (Pew)

The kicker: 56% of US Internet users have not been on an airplane this past year. 18% never have. (Google Surveys)

Let that sink in

  • Only 43% of the US Internet population has been on an airplane in the past 12 months
  • More people have used Facebook than have flown on an airplane this year
  • More people own a smartphone than have flown on an airplane this year

So don't assume that everyone's experience is just like yours. As we see in the data, outside of your circle the world is very different.

I don't think we should feel ashamed for living in a bubble and having privileges. Products like Dopplr and TripIt are very valuable to their niche of frequent travelers. As long as we acknowledge how lucky we are, it's fine. The problem is when people don't realize they're a niche and assume everyone thinks like they do.

In the end

Perhaps Ben's tweet was deadpan, a hilarious critique of Senator Claire McCaskill, Democrat of Missouri, who really should be focusing on the welfare of the majority of Americans, not the privileged few.
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