The online world: are you staying or visiting?

Whilst Prensky (2001) initiated a stimulating debate on digital literacy and whether it is innate or learned, his opinions are rather absolute. He refers to the Net Generation as “digital natives”, whereas the older generation is referred to as “digital immigrants”. According to Prensky, “digital natives” were born into the digital era and experienced a variety of technologies from the onset of their lives. Conversely, “digital immigrants” have had to adapt by learning how to integrate new technologies into their pre-existing, non-digital lives.

Nonetheless, following some speculation, it becomes evident that digital familiarization is more appropriately viewed as a continuum rather than a “two-category” distinction based on time of birth. The online world is a gigantic network of digital platforms which serve different purposes. A young adult who is accustomed to online social networks, does not automatically possess the proficiency of using the web for learning or professional advancement purposes. Similarly, a senior person who is not accustomed to online social networks, may still be computer literate and use the web as a tool for his or her professional career. For example, during 2014 LinkedIn was primarily used by 30-49 year olds, with 65+ year olds using it almost as much as 18-29 year olds (Duggan, Ellison, Lampe, & Madden, 2015).


Thus, the simplistic terms used by Prensky are more suitably represented by the terms “digital residents” and “digital visitors” (White & Le Cornu, 2011).

White and Le Cornu (2011) argue that “digital residents” spend a substantial portion of their lives online. They regularly update their digital persona whilst interacting with others in their online community. On the other hand, “digital visitors” view the web primarily as a means to an end. They log on with a specific task in mind and they do not have digital identities.

Personally, I find it hard to put myself in one particular category. After some self-reflecting, I concluded that I am in this vicinity:


I believe I resemble more of a “digital resident” due to the fact that I use the web professionally, academically, and recreationally. However, I usually allocate a specific time for using the web, rather than sitting down at a screen to maintain my presence at any time during the day, which resembles the “digital visitor”. This is why a continuum is a more appropriate means of evaluation, as people may lie somewhere in between “digital residents” and “digital visitors”.


Duggan, M., Ellison, N., Lampe, A., & Madden, M. (2015). Demographics of Key Social Networking Platforms. Pew Research Center: Internet, Science & Tech. Retrieved 8 February 2016, from

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1. On The Horizon, 9(5), 1-6.

White, D., & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).

9 thoughts on “The online world: are you staying or visiting?

  1. annaclaregrace says:

    Hey Melina, I really enjoyed your post! I especially loved the research about the age of users of LinkedIn in 2014 – that statistic made me chuckle as it caught me off guard. I really agree with all the points you have made and I really like your writing style – clear, coherent and insightful (I think I may comment on your blog for every UOSM topic!)
    I agree with your views towards the Resident/Visitor ideologies because I also found it hard to position myself as one or the other, hence why Cornu and White’s theory has been likened to a spectrum. I too see myself more as a Resident as I use the Internet in the same facets as yourself, but I can be considered a Visitor at times, but for reasons that differ to yours. For example I consider myself a Visitor to certain sites, that I purely use for research when I need to use them and not frequently nor recreationally such as Pinterest for interior design inspiration or a website to find a new recipe. But when it comes to the main social media players such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, I, admittedly, openly and unashamedly declare myself a Resident.
    Peace Melina, and see you on the next blog post.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mab4g1412 says:

    Great blog Melinda! I loved the transfusion of formal/blog style writing you used throughout the post, it really made it enjoyable to read. The clear and concise use of citations and referencing both in-text and beneath your image, added a professional touch. On that note, I liked that you had the info-graphic for the ‘LinkedIn users’ uploaded into your post. This helped alleviate the onus off of seeping through the statistics, subsequently making the reader’s comprehension of your point much simpler.

    The section on your personal reflection was definitely poignant, and a reflection of my feelings towards categorising myself. And again, the use of the info-graphic to display your personal locality on the spectrum was dope. *As I also used the same method* lol.
    I look forward to your future posts 🙂


    • melinalinden says:

      Thank you mab4g1412! (that must be difficult to pronounce) I’m flattered that you were inspired by my method, even though it was so easy do create using Paint, I also feel it effectively illustrates where I personally see myself as a resident/visitor 🙂 The best of luck to us in our future blog posts!


  3. Sam Horstcraft says:

    Hi Melina

    I found your blog post very interesting to read as it provided a wider view of the digital visitors and resident’s continuum. I particularly enjoyed your use of the table about older people than ourselves using LinkedIn more. Why do you think this is the case? Also I feel it aided your point about older people using it more for a professional purpose.

    Although you say older people aren’t accustomed to using online social networks maybe it is because we can’t see them using it. For instance websites like are predominantly made up of older people, however most younger people don’t even know about it and websites like this could make it difficult to look everywhere at the same time to find out about all age groups.

    Liked by 1 person

    • melinalinden says:

      Hi Sam,
      Thank you for your comment. It is funny to think that 65+ year olds use LinkedIn almost as much as our age group isn’t it? Perhaps we are “too green” to reap the benefits of this particular online platform. By this I mean that we do not have enough experience, skills, contacts etc. However, a businessman or businesswoman which have been in the industry for years have a lot to bring to the table. Maybe that is one reason why that age group seems to make more use of LinkedIn.
      In addition, I did not mention that older people do not use online social networks, I was merely saying that if they don’t, it does not necessarily make them computer illiterate and that there are other ways in which they might use the web. You are absolutely right, we also might not be aware of some platforms they use, like I think what we can say with certainty is that the web is in many homes nowadays, making most of us (young and old) residents or visitors.


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