weren’t born yesterday—or during the past 25 years— maybe, like me, you’re not
totally up to speed on technology and social media. Of course there’s a range
of incompetence, bottoming out at downright (and deliberate) ignorance. On one extreme, there’s my mom and her
friends in their 80s. Most of them don’t
have cell phones, computers or ipads. For
them, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, “download” and “Apps” are a foreign
language. My Mom prefers phones with
cords, books from the library and handwritten notes. I’m sure there are plenty
of elderly people who feel differently, but I haven’t met many.
As for us
baby boomers, our comfort zone with technology and social media is broad and
varied. Most middle aged adults, who
have been in the work force since college, have gradually made the transition
from typewriters to computers, fax to pdf and onto laptops, cell phones and
ipads. It’s not even possible to be a
responsible parent if you don’t stay on top of technology. How else can you
protect your child from cyberbullying, sexting, and on-line pedophiles? There
are probably countless other worries, but fortunately my kids are 23, so I don’t
have to pay attention to the latest and (not necessarily) greatest advances in
technology. What is Snapchat, anyway?
other hand, I’m extremely grateful that my son, Max, forced me to become semi-computer
literate. Starting in 6th
grade, Max attended a school that required him to do practically EVERYTHING on
a laptop. The good news was that most
homework assignments were posted on-line.
No more forgetting or losing those pesky papers with teacher’s
instructions—a huge benefit to students like Max with ADHD. The bad news was I had to monitor how much
time Max spent IMing and going on Facebook instead of actually doing the homework. That meant I had to
join Facebook, get his password and invade his messy minefield of a room to
check his laptop screen. In some ways, I
felt like an ungainly or oversized ship, being tugged out of my safe harbor of
with other parents, I had to learn enough about my son’s social world and its
intersections with technology to help him navigate safely and politely. We had
to invent new rules of etiquette. Is it
okay to email a thank you note instead of writing one? Share your password with
close friends? What about IMing while
talking to a parent? Texting while out to dinner? Or posting questionable
photos on Facebook? These were the
common issues of the day.
common but equally important, was educating my daughter, Sarah, on the autistic
spectrum, to use a computer and understand the basics of social media. Her special schools were so busy trying to
help her overcome behavioral and social challenges and teach her basic academic
skills (like reading and math) that there was no time or energy left to focus
on technology. It was hard enough for Sarah to make one or two real friends in
her class, let alone learn how to email or understand the ins and outs of
Persuading Sarah to use a computer
was much more difficult than I would have imagined. With low muscle tone in her fingers, Sarah
had struggled to hold a pen correctly before finally learning to write loopy
script that teachers could barely decipher. The irony was that Sarah LOVED
writing script, because it was the only thing she accomplished before her twin brother. Sarah was
painfully aware that Max was more proficient in computers, social media and all
other academics, so she didn’t want to try.
Toward the end of high school I had
to ask teachers to insist that Sarah type her papers. There was no chance she could go to college
without basic computer literacy. I had
to help her, so I had to help myself first.
Then I had to persuade her that to make and keep friends in the real
world, she needed to go on Facebook. It
was a long, slow process, but now she has more than 100 Facebook friends; a few
of them are friends in the real world.
Speaking of the real world, I often
feel that I’m on the verge of obsolescence.
I became so comfortable with my Blackberry that I have owned an iphone
for less than a year. Should I be
embarrassed (or proud?) to admit that I have only recently learned to take and
upload photos on my phone, along with using navigation and voice commands? This blog is less than a year old and I
needed a LOT of help setting it up, learning where and how to post it. As for Twitter, I’m not a big fan, and
usually tweet only once a week, (instead of every day like most people in the
modern age). I’ve never included a hash
tag. According to my frame of reference
“hash” is either roast beef or something you smoke. Does that leave me at the
shallow end of the social media pool?
Maybe the people in the shallow end
are those young people on dates who don’t talk to each other. They don’t hold hands or even make eye
contact because they are too busy texting other people on their respective
phones. Even worse, is when one person
talks on the phone or texts, and the other just sits there, virtually alone. What happened to romantic evenings when people
talked and had eyes for only EACH OTHER?
For that matter, what happened to friends having intimate conversations
or laughing TOGETHER instead of on separate screens? Are we destined to
communicate in emotional shorthand with abbreviations, initials and emoticons?
Technology has opened the world and
connected many people in a variety of ways, not all of them good. Time, energy
and paper have been saved and many tedious jobs eliminated (good for some
people and ruinous for others). Robots and mini-drones are only a heartbeat (or
key stroke) away. Depending on your age,
viewpoint (and investment portfolio), these developments fall somewhere in the
range of wonderful, innovative examples of human evolution and cyber disgrace.
Labels: ADHD, autistic spectrum, baby boomers, Blackberry, computer literacy, computers, cyberspace, etiquette, Facebook, hashtag, homework, iphones, Snapchat, social media, technology issues, texting, Twitter