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YRU Doing This? Spell Out The Reasons
By Jody Rathgeb
I don’t believe that my friend JD has ever done anything that’s conventional or conformist. Smart, skillful, and artistic, he spent an American life avoiding regular employment, instead picking up jobs that interested him until they didn’t: working on a shrimper, manning a tugboat, welding, etc. Some 40 years ago, he followed one such job to the Turks and Caicos Islands, which just about no one had heard of, and when the job was done, he stayed. With an expired work permit and no passport, he has lived on the edge of convention by fixing washing machines, renting scooters, helping an eco-tourism company, and picking up other odd jobs. Now in his late 70s, he thoroughly missed the dawn of the digital age.
Yet today, Facebook and the Internet are the center of his world.
Here’s what happened. After his companion, Margo, died, he became curious about the laptop she left behind and started playing with it. A younger friend, Patti, showed him a few things, and he rediscovered passions from the past: blues music, offbeat humor, astronomy, oddities of nature. Then Patti introduced him to Facebook, and he rediscovered a social network of high school classmates in Texas, a once-estranged daughter, and Margo’s relatives in Canada.
Just as his digital world began to expand, his physical world suddenly contracted. He suffered a stroke, which has left him weak and one-handed, and an enlarged prostate has saddled him with a permanent catheter while health and immigration officials dither and bicker about his illegal resident status and eligibility to travel for surgery.
He is remarkably resilient and resourceful. He set up a vice in his living room to act as his “holding” hand to open cans and packages. A rope hanging from the ceiling helps him get up from his chair. And he keeps in touch even with close neighbors via the Internet, tapping his messages with one finger. His is truly in a digital world.
The opposite is true for my sister, Susan, a retired teacher in her late 60s. She is minimally connected, but hates getting and answering email, and prefers her old World Book encyclopedias to Google. I know better than to ask her to join Facebook: If I have something to share with her, I must call or use USPS. Texting or Twitter? Hell, no.
The difference between JD and Susan is utility. JD is connected because he finds it useful; Susan does not. For both, the Internet is a tool. Despite their disparate reactions to technology, they share an attitude that differs greatly from those of younger generations, who live online as a lifestyle.
This is the key to intergenerational discussions about new technology: Know where the other person is coming from. Grandpa won’t “get” Facetime until he understands that it is useful. Madison’s preference for conversing with her phone instead of the person in front of her will baffle those who grew up when “social” and “media” were not linked words. Living a screen life may be preferable to many young people, but not everyone wants to do so. Before we try to drag everyone into that world, let’s consider the individual and the “why.”
#Real #Essay #YRUDoingThis? #JodyRathgeb #Technology #OlderGenerations #SocialMedia
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