My memories of my youth fondly include: a curly phone cord that I twisted as I talked to a cute boy on the phone, an answering machine that I ran toward while throwing off my coat and books, a clunky and unreliable VCR, listening to the radio while waiting for my favorite song-then diving for the tape recorder when I heard the first few notes, my beloved Sony Walkman used for playing the aforementioned cassette tapes, games that didn’t require software and -get this- a full encyclopedia set on the shelf (for when my parents said, “Look it up”). Coming from this kind of background (I didn’t lay my hands on a computer until my second year of college), technology and I have had a tenuous relationship. I love that I can prop up my I-Pad cookbook-style to follow a recipe, but I miss when you could watch the Sound of Music only once a year, making it’s viewing as sweet as the apple pie that accompanied it’s broadcast on Thanksgiving night.
Education and technology writer Mark Prensky calls people like me “digital immigrants,” struggling to understand and keep up with the new land of computers, video games and the like. My eleven year old is a “digital native,” having been born into this culture of technology. She far surpasses my abilities in digital gaming and we are about neck and neck in computer know-how. Probably tomorrow she will stride past me, creating websites and editing her 5th grade online yearbook with ease. As an immigrant, my sentimentality for the past makes me seem like a dinosaur to her. She still can’t fully grasp that there was no Google when I grew up. It is quite literally beyond her comprehension. And I admit it, it really pisses me off when she confidently shows me how to do something on the computer. I mean, I’m the one who is supposed to know more than her, so WTF?
In suburbia, I can’t help feeling a little judgmental when I see a fellow parent allowing a child to play with a phone or an I-Pad at a restaurant. How many of you have heard or thought, “their brains will turn to mush…” If so, Hanna Rosin’s recent article for the Atlantic called The Touch Screen Generation will go a long way to putting your mind at ease. Brain researchers have concluded that watching television or playing on a tablet will not in fact put your child’s brain to sleep. Their brains remain active and engaged, especially when watching shows like Dora because there are pauses and ways to interact. Of course, there is also controversy that technology deprives your brain of necessary downtime and makes us more prone to distraction. And by the way, if you see me handing my child my phone to entertain them while in line at the post office, well, that is absolutely fucking okay.
There are a host of things that I would like to learn and do using technology:
- improve the look and feel of this blog: expand the sidebar, making layout more eye-pleasing etc.
- actually uploading and organizing my photos online. For real. I mean it.
- using Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram. Like cool people do.
- putting my favorite recipes onto my I-Pad, thereby making myself an actual chef.
- at work, using my computer instead of my pen for progress notes. Okay, this probably won’t happen.
- pingbacks, widgets, #, @, permalinks, CSS, HTML: it’s all fucking Greek to me.
Even my friends who are just five years younger than me are more adept at technology. They can share a photo on Facebook faster than the speed of light! I STILL cannot figure out why I get posts from some people and not from others. I mostly avoid Facebook now, it just seems like too much work. When I was in high school, instead of posting photos, we exchanged actual photos after we went to the photo booth in the mall and got them developed from actual film. Cutting our graduation photos from huge sheets was the shit back then. There were photos that said PROOF on them and you had to wait like a month to get them.
Now, I am fully aware that there is a lot to embrace about technology. My calendar is now fully on my phone and computer which makes my life out and about much easier. Blogging flexes my writing muscle (though I still use a pen and notebook in my writing group). Having fought it initially, texting is hugely fun and effective when you want to chat but are spending time with the family. Because of a three hour time difference, emailing friends and family is often easier than calling.
For me, I worry about a new generation not getting enough time outdoors. About not moving their bodies enough. About technology making decisions for us and not developing our own ability to problem solve. About the energy that comes from simply being with another person being lost. About not getting the quiet and silence in our lives that all humans need. About the loss of community. And selfishly, I worry about getting left behind in a world that is moving so damn fast. And so I resist, pushing against the inevitable when really I should be giving it a big hug.
What is your relationship with technology?
Thanks to Barbara Paulsen of Mt. Hood Mama photos. She has been known to stand on tables to get a good shot. I’ve seen her do it.