“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. ” A.Toffler, futurist.
Last week, while waiting for friends at a cafe, I was half-way through Nick Bilton’s I Live In The Future & Here’s How It Works, when I looked up to see a bespectacled man at an opposing table, staring intently at his iPad.
The irony made me chortle a little; here I was (in Bilton’s description) a Digital Immigrant, perusing a paper and glue bound library book about embracing the digital era while my neighbour was fixated on the latest model of a modern tablet.
As someone born in the era where music was purchased in the form of cassette tapes and someone who still recalls the battle of supremacy between the LDs and VCDs formats; I can say it’s true. The swift transition and rise of the internet shocked me; I remember vividly the first time I created a web email account and the first time I tried out a Yahoo Chatroom.
It was two major breakthroughs for me in a day. One; it was unbelievable that I was actually speaking, chatting to someone, in real time to someone from the other side of the world. Two, a chat room for Books & Literature talked about everything but books and literature.
(It was therefore with great disbelief that I snorted at the scene in The Proposal when Sandra Bullock acted all surprised over the sounds of a dial-up modem. Sorry, scriptwriter, but considering Bullock or her character’s age, it was wholly unrealistic that she would not belong to the same age where we had to bear with those grumpy noisy boxes.)
Nowdays, I look upon the Digital Natives with much envy. Whilst I struggled to learn how to crop pictures and place text and images together, the young ones now seem to have no such problems. The internet and all its tools have become their playground and toys of choice and while they are elated and embrace every new branch of technology that emerges, I, the Digital Immigrant am confounded by how a spreadsheet on Excel works.
The difference in values is also apparent; these new Digital Natives seem so much willing to reveal personal details, pictures, share their lives with complete strangers. I, along with friends from my age get all cranky and paranoid when trying to process an online transaction.
While I appreciate the honesty and candor, I can’t help but wonder; are they not worried that these things might come back to haunt them? Is this now the norm rather than the exception? Perhaps as more time goes by, this amount of information sharing would be seen as standard protocol while caution and anonymity would be something from the Dark Ages?
Yet, despite the constant worries about viruses, spam, (and the nagging fear at the back of my head that something I wrote or posted would come back and bite me) I really do love being in this digital age.
I mean, how great (and creepy in some ways) that we are all connected and have access to so much information and entertainment? Of course, while it hasn’t been always harnessed to good effect, I do feel that there has never been a time better than now in being able to seek and find answers to our numerous questions.
This probably stems from being a bit of an information junkie but I simply love that by spending a little more time online, I can find the name and at times, even clips of an off-air, near-forgotten series from my childhood or sometimes an answer to some weird trivial question that pops up during midnight conversations.
(But I don’t enjoy the fact that a lot of lazy people out there who seem incapable of understanding web browsing as a function with simple questions; I admit to taking great delight in refering them here.)
But there is one thing that I won’t give up in the face of this new technology; the printed word.
While I admit an ebook-reader’s ability to hold the entire library of my books in one device has been sorely tempting, not one pixel has yet been able to erode my pleasure of thumbing through a paperback in a subway or clasping a newspaper in my hand with my morning coffee. I can’t abide with losing the smell of books in a library or the thrill of running my hands on the paper.
It’s likely that this will keep my reputation as a boring old stodgy who would still lug around a dead tree in her bag.
But that’s okay.
The Digital Natives can keep their pdfs.
I’ll take my books.
To the grave, clasped in my cold, stiff fingers.