Most people are surprised to learn that online retail sales, though growing quickly, are still only a fraction (9 percent) of all retail sales. Brick and mortar locations still account for 91 percent of all sales, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce.

That is good news for small, locally-owned businesses that support our local economy. Not that small businesses should ignore the online market.

With the right strategy small local businesses can increase their visibility and grow market share. And of course, the Bismarck Tribune can help them with a host of digital solutions.

The enemy of small business and brick and mortar isn’t online sales, but rather the online behemoths that grabbed market share early and which have the advantage of avoiding local taxes.

But their success appears to have caused a lot of people to rethink the depth with which they live in the digital world.

Data theft is just one issue that seems to headline the news on a fairly regular basis. Now come studies that ought to make us at least consider the depth of our addiction.

New York Times columnist David Brooks writes in his latest column that social media addiction is “destroying” our youth by increasing their “solitude and an intense awareness of social exclusion.”

One recent study he quotes revealed a huge increase in unhappiness and depression resulting in increased risk of suicide.

The addiction is fed by what Brooks calls a “bottomless bowl,” with feeds that are never ending.

His final critique is that the tech giants use their platforms with unfair conditions on competitors and to invade privacy.

Do not read this as a call to abandon technology but rather to raise a caution flag that causes us to reevaluate the depth of our participation and to set boundaries on its use.

Perhaps the Apostle Paul said it best when he said, in 1 Corinthians 6:12-13 “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful … I will not be enslaved to anything.”

Were he here today that advice may sound like, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

Gary Adkisson is publisher of the Bismarck Tribune.

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