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The Digital Natives Are Restless July 22, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought, Techology.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

American Gothic

When I arrived at my friend Cathy’s house in Kansas City, the first order of business was to log onto their wifi account. Cathy had a password written down, but it wasn’t working, so she called her 23-year-old son. Matt rattled it off over the phone. Twenty plus letters and numbers. “This isn’t a password – it’s the nuclear launch code,” Cathy mused. Once I was back on-line, my DT’s (Digital Tremors) subsided. Whew.

That got me thinking about how everything has changed due to technology. On the flight back to the Midwest, the plane couldn’t take off. “There are still electronic devices on in rows 15, 32, and 34,”  the flight attendant announced. So we waited. Another announcement. Finally, we taxied.

I give my parents, who are in their 80s, a pass on technology. My dad bought a computer years ago and has so many security programs installed to prevent identity theft that every time you press a key a security alert pops up about possible suspicious activity. Talk about killing the creative muse.

Both my parents have cell phones, but I don’t bother to call them because they’re usually turned off. And my parents never figured out how to retrieve messages. I have to admit that it wasn’t until we ditched our landline, that I was forced to figure out all of those features on my cell phone. And I’m still figuring out how to shoot an independent film on it.

While I was visiting my parents, my brother was there along with his daughter, Allison, and her friend, Jeff, both who just graduated from college. For them technology is second nature. Missed the last episode of True Blood? Jeff downloaded it for me and emailed it to my Dropbox so I could watch it on my computer.

Jeff carried his iPhone with him and set it on the table during meals. Sitting at Runza Hut, we got talking about whether the exquisite and highly addictive Runza (a doughy mound filled with ground beef and cabbage) was of Polish or German origin. Jeff googled it. Turned out it’s German/Russian. So there! Meanwhile, my phone kept dinging. “I keep hearing something,” my mother said looking around. It was yet another incoming text message on my phone. Sometimes technology can be too much of a good thing.

Because my parents Wifi connection was spotty, I was worried I’d have to cruise the neighborhood hoping to piggyback on someone else’s wireless. Jeff informed me this is called War Driving. I googled the Urban Dictionary just to make sure. Who knew?

My parents were most impressed with how you can go to Google Maps and see a 360-degree street view of your home. And all of this on an iPhone! When my mother asked how we could look inside the houses, I bit my tongue. Then my dad asked how much an IHOP costs. There’s a learning curve here and at this late stage in their lives, it’s a steep a hill to climb. No, make that a mountain.

Last summer, I read an interesting article called Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants by Marc Prensky that explains how those who’ve grown up with technology, the digital natives, actually think and process information differently than the rest of us. Whether you teach kids, have one, or were ever one yourself, it’s a fascinating read.


1. Catherine Sherman - July 23, 2009

Another great, hilarious post! (My cell phone is usually turned off, too….)

As I read this, I thought about how you needed a text book while you were here, and I was able to find it online at our library. We reserve most of our books online, and then the library emails us when the book or dvd is waiting for us. We can go through a drive-through to pick it up or go inside to pick it up and then check it out ourselves.

The day after you left, we had six more (unexpected!) guests, and they needed that “nuclear launch code,” too! So it’s a good thing I knew what it was, since I’d never had to use it before your visit. (I didn’t even know we had a code….) Spiritual Rez were the guests, a “reggae horn funk dance party” band on tour, friends of Laura and Ryan’s from Berklee, who book hotel rooms (when not sleeping on friends’ floors!), update facebook and MySpace and keep connected to friends and family all by the internet because they are constantly on the move. They also use the “old-fashioned” cell phone, too, of course.

My husband just bought new cell phones for us and ordered “the unlimited data package,” which I’ve resisted because I’m such an internet addict. Sometimes I leave the house just to break its hold on me. Now there will be no escape! When my daughter Laura was away at school, sometimes she “went Amish” as her boyfriend said, and it droves me crazy because I couldn’t get in touch with her.

Cathy – I’m just sorry I missed the reggae horn funk dance party! Going Amish? I think they even shun zippers. I wouldn’t want to go THERE, but that said, I know a lot of people who would have time on their hands if they got off facebook. But I’m not one of those people, of course. Jan


2. Bev from england - July 24, 2009

Loved it !!!

I love technology…. its abs amazing… but i think im kinda in the middle of it..u know…the kids grow up with it and take it for granted and understand it like second nature…’old’ people often find it totally daunting and like ur dad are sooo scared they cant use it properly.

then here i am stuck in the middle….loving it n using it but not finding it all comes naturally… lol i think i half use everything in fact!

just got a lovely cherry red dell lap top and ill half use it too 😉


Bev – I think you’re pretty typical. Most of us only use half our brains half the time anyways! Jan


3. Christine - July 26, 2009

Greetings from cheery Norway! Your Grant Wood “American Gothic” is illustrative of people I see everywhere, every day now. I remember staring at that painting five years ago (at the Art Institute in Chicago). I was obsessed with the white circles with little white dots in the middle that are on the woman’s apron–which don’t normally show up in reproductions and which I had never noticed before. I was also thinking about the Barack Obama for Senate posters I was seeing all over the city and wondering how amazed these staid folks would be to see a man of his appearance running for that office (much less President). Anyway, as far as technology goes, my “Norwegian” brother is the technophile of the family. I prefer to be Amish. Neither my dad (before he died) nor my mom ever laid their hands on a computer or a cell phone. So your parents are way ahead of the game. Keep on posting–they give me a little touch of South Pasadena!

Christine – Are you the same Amish person I know who was working on her fluency in texting? 🙂 Jan


Christine - July 26, 2009

I really like texting and checking my e-mail. Since I don’t have as many contacts as you, it’s not as exciting. I also don’t have your bloglife either. You use technology as a creative outlet. Right now, I use it to stay in touch with people who know how to express their feelings. I can’t wait to get home!


4. Christine - July 26, 2009

P.S. How do you make that smiley face icon? I could really use that right now (and a hug and some warm milk).

Christine – You’d have to ask my computer. They’re “emoticons” and I’m not sure how you enable them. I just use the keyboard to make a smiley face, and they magically appear. So here’s a smiley face 🙂 to cheer you up. I guess pickled herring doesn’t qualify as a comfort food. I’m sending a big hug and just because I’m so thoughtful, I’ll eat a warm cookie with some cold milk to make you feel better. Jan


5. Sheri O'Brien - July 27, 2009

My mom calls Face Book “Space Book”, a combo of Face Book and My Space I guess, which is not too bad actually. She and my dad are like Keystone cops with the cell phone THAT THEY SHARE! Is it ringing? Do you push this? Can you hear me? It’s painful to witness. I WILL start referring to my iphone as “IHOP” now though. Too funny. I really shouldn’t be too harsh, I’m only a step or two above banging rocks together myself.

Sheri – At least you’re making progress. Slow, but steady. Pretty soon you’ll be juggling those rocks. Jan


6. janelleholden - July 28, 2009

I’ve just spent five days without cell phone or computer but not really by choice. It just happened that my sister’s connection was slower than dial-up and a minute of cell phone use in Canada is a little like buying gold so I couldn’t afford it. Anyway, it made me notice everyone else’s addiction, and I now think that it’s more like we have two selves that we are trying to keep up with. Our online self that interacts with everyone we can’t physically see, and a physical self that is trying to remember everything so that it can share it with our online community. I do like it better, but I wonder when we are all going to get brain implants to share thoughts at lightning speed so that we don’t have to type anymore.

Janelle – I think you’re onto something. I can be one person, but when I hear the ding of an incoming message, I respond like Pavolov’s dog. When I was visiting my parents, I couldn’t help but notice how many people were talking and texting – doing anything but talking during meals. Our lives are all so busy and some of my favorite people don’t live close by. Yesterday, I spent an hour talking to my friend in England via SKYPE and we had such fun That said, I’d be happy to volunteer for the brain implant experiment. It’s summer and we teachers could use some cash. Jan


7. elissestuart - July 29, 2009

I just spent 6 days without my cell phone or computer. Funny, I guess that is what John Muir would have wanted. There is ZERO reception on the valley floor at Yosemite and would you believe, you can’t get ONE bar of cell phone reception at the edge of the Grand Canyon?
I can relate. I had serious DT’s. (Distant From Technology.)

Elisse – I have a feeling that if John Muir was alive today, he might just be using the internet to promote the preservation of Yosemite, but I could be wrong. When Richard and Ian were in Arizona on a houseboat several years back, Richard rowed out to the center of the lake every afternoon so he could call me – It was the only spot he could get reception. 🙂 Jan


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