Classroom“You don’t know what you don’t know,” is one of my favorite phrases. It’s an admonition I take seriously. No matter how hard you study, no matter how much knowledge you acquire, no matter how much wisdom you possess – there is always more to learn.

This is the third article in an ad hoc trilogy inspired by feedback from a remarkably diverse group of individuals. My first article, “Are You Employable In 2012?” recounts an experience I had trying to hire an administrative assistant. It’s full of helpful hints about starting a career in the 21st century. The second article was an impromptu follow-on instigated by a bunch of 50-somethings who espoused prideful ignorance of modern communication entitled, “Attack Of The Pridefully Ignorant.” The thesis of the article is that we (all of us) need to stop questioning the necessity for digitally literacy and accept that “digital,” in the broadest sense of the word, is not going away. I gave a few simple tips about how easy it can be enter the world of social media, and ended with a paragraph about the need to add new digital skills to your professional tool belt. Not a comprehensive list of ways to become more digitally literate, but a good way to start.

I don’t think I have ever written a piece that received more attention – both positive and negative.

I try to limit my weekly writings to about a thousand words, so – first and foremost – let me say, I cannot cover this topic completely here. I do a pretty good job explaining my position in my latest book, Overcoming The Digital Divide: How To Use Social Media And Digital Tools To Reinvent Yourself And Your Career. It’s available on (both Kindleand Paperback) and wherever fine books are sold.

So, without further fanfare, here is my response to the thousands of emails, tweets and comments regarding “Attack Of The Pridefully Ignorant.”

Digital communication is here to stay. Intel says that today, there are just over two billion people connected to the Internet. It is projecting three billion by the end of 2015 and hopes the world gets to four billion by the end of 2020. Intel has a selfish reason for this prediction; it makes the chips for the billions of devices that will support this connectivity.

ComScore says as of November, total U.S. iPhone users grew to 26 million and total Android users grew to 42.9 million. That number is trending upward at a fierce pace.

Although it’s hard to find one definitive source, the general consensus is that, worldwide, there are approximately five billion feature phones, 500 million smart phones and 60 million tablets and e-readers. And, of course, these numbers are trending up too.

One hundred percent of these devices are digital. And, while it’s true that some of the radio signals that are used with these devices are analog, there are computers doing all of the heavy lifting. So, for all intents and purposes, the world of communication is 100% digital. Which begs the question, “Why would anyone even suggest that digital literacy is an unimportant skill in the 21st century?”

Did Tiger Woods know that he was making a digital audio recording on a remote server? That bit of digital illiteracy cost him a lot. Did Eliot Spitzer know that a wire transfer was actually a digital file transfer and that, while private, it was not anonymous? Obviously not – that lack of digital knowledge cost him big as well. How about Anthony Weiner’s and Brett Favre’s experience with digital photos? Their collective lack of knowledge about simple digital file transfers yielded unfortunate consequences too.

Do you know how well your online presence matches your offline presence? When I Google you, will I find what you would expect me to find? How do you look on LinkedIn? Do you actually believe that there is a hiring manager in the connected world that will not check you out on Google, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn before considering you for a position? The reasons to become digitally literate are endless.

I am not advocating digital communication over in-person connections. In fact, I’m not advocating anything other than that the “pridefully ignorant anti-21st century communications tools group” should consider that they don’t know what they don’t know.

These are early days. Social media is in its infancy and we have no way of knowing whether Facebook or Twitter or any one of the other 500 popular social networks will be around in a few years. What we do know is that while some people are using social media for egocasting, others are community organizing and still others are overthrowing governments. Same tools, different applications.

I’m going to resist all temptation to respond to any individual comment or email about my pridefully ignorant experience. The comments, including the most derogatory, simply prove my point. My thanks to all of you for surprising me this week, I was truly shocked that so many people spent their valuable time telling me how stupid and brainwashed I am about the need for digital literacy.

I will leave you with this one thought. There was a significant conversation going on about you in a place you know nothing about, care nothing about and don’t believe exists … like I said, you don’t know what you don’t know.

About Shelly Palmer

Named one of LinkedIn’s Top 10 Voices in Technology, Shelly Palmer is CEO of The Palmer Group, a strategic advisory, technology solutions and business development practice focused at the nexus of media and marketing with a special emphasis on machine learning and data-driven decision-making. He is Fox 5 New York's on-air tech and digital media expert, writes a weekly column for AdAge, and is a regular commentator on CNBC and CNN. Follow @shellypalmer or visit or subscribe to our daily email

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"You Don’t Know What You Don’t Know" by @ShellyPalmer

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