Silicon Valley Gadgets Divide Americans

Monday, 03 Mar 2014 10:52 AM

By Jon Friedman

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A fascinating story popped up last month in San Francisco, home to its share of confounding, engrossing sagas, for sure. But this one seems unique and worth talking about in public.
 
It began when an unassuming young woman walked quietly into one of the glamorous city's many dive bars. From published accounts, she wasn't trying to stir up a fuss and didn't want any trouble. But trouble soon found her. She happened to be wearing the trendy new Google Glasses, which cost somewhere in the pricey vicinity of $1,500 or so — as Robert DeNiro's tough-guy character said in the movie "Midnight Run," "that's a very respectable neighborhood."
 
Some of the people hanging out in the bar at the time took opposition to the woman, her Google Glasses and what she might be representing: status symbols, wealth gone amok. The barflies proceeded to give her a hard time and even reportedly rough her up a bit. Fortunately, she wasn't badly hurt and it didn't morph into a legal brouhaha or a criminal proceeding.
 
We can leave the woman here in our story — but the issue at hand remains worth exploring. Is Silicon Valley, where so many of those wonderful, wondrous gadgets, unwittingly dividing our nation into a group of haves and a class of have-nots? Was this merely an isolated case of bad feelings or simply a case of someone finding herself in the wrong place at the wrong time?
 
In New York City, where I live, one of the recent criminal fads has been to walk up to a complete stranger, punch that hapless person in the face and run away. The point is to empower one's self by committing a random act of violence on someone who might just be more wealthy and powerful in society. It's sick. It's stupid. For a while in New York, it was also prevalent, which worried a lot of people. Social media went wild, covering it in detail, too. 
 
What's the solution? Stop cranking out those ultra-popular and profitable devices? Not likely. It has come to a point, though, where we have to recognize that our fun little gadgets represent more than an easier way of life for the people who use them and can afford to keep buying the newest models every couple of years. Now, the situation has deteriorated to a point where people are going to be offended, even threatened, by these trendy items.
 
What about the San Francisco woman who got shoved around by local toughs and others who might experience the same unkind fate?
 
Perhaps the moral of the story, to quote a Bob Dylan lyric, is that "one should never be where one does not belong."
 
Jon Friedman writes the Media Matrix blog for Indiewire.com. He is also the author of "Forget About Today: Bob Dylan's Genius for (Re)Invention, Shunning the Naysayers, and Creating a Personal Revolution." Read more reports from Jon Friedman — Click Here Now.
 
 
 

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