SoLoMo and the Digital Have-Nots, Know-Nots and Want-Nots

by Bob Schwartz

The digital world is all abuzz about SoLoMo, most recently at SXSW Interactive. And why not? Here are the ingredients:

1/4 cup mayonnaise
Pinch dill
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Black pepper
Orlando grape leaves, jarred
1 fresh skinless salmon fillet, 1 1/2 pounds, cut in 4 pieces
Greek imported feta, sliced 1/8-inch thick
Olive oil
Lemon slices

Actually, that’s the recipe for solomo keftiko, a delicious Greek salmon dish.

The other SoLoMo is social, local, mobile media, one of the latest categories in the Who Wants To Be A Billionaire lottery. The concept behind these apps is that if mobile devices know who and where users are in real time, users can then interact with who (people) and what (businesses) are all around them. Foursquare is the best-known, and the new Highlight was one of the interactive stars at SXSW.

This is ultimately about people, and not just the digital people who know that SoLoMo isn’t something to eat. This led to thinking about who all the people are, and it looks as if there are three big groups that deserve attention: the have-nots, the know-nots, and the want-nots.

There are still plenty of digital have-nots in America, not only those who can barely afford some of the world’s most expensive mobile phones and service, but those millions who don’t have broadband service. They may be actual elected mayors of real places, but they will never be the Foursquare mayor of the local hardware store.

Know-nots make up the vast majority. They are digitally capable, they have all the right equipment, but they just don’t know all the things they can do with it. They will watch, they will learn, they will adapt, they will adopt.

The want-nots are most interesting of all. They are not Luddites. They are enabled, they know what they can do, they have the normal social and communication needs, but they choose to limit their participation in the interactive universe. That can be hard, and when an application becomes a universal platform (Facebook, Twitter), the drumbeat to play is insistent.

Without implying that digital hyper-engagement is in any way a pathology, a model from medical investigation is helpful. In the face of an epidemic, the most useful information about the disease comes not from those who succumb but from those who survive. The digital want-nots seem to have partial immunity, and their choices should be fascinating to SoLoMoers and others.