Recently my niece Jill, who was born in 1980, posted an article about the last generation to remember what life was like before AND after the internet. I found it fascinating that her generation and ours (some of us) have this thing in common.
There’s probably been no change in society so dramatic since the invention of the printing press. How lucky that we’ve been here to witness the impact the internet has had, as it was happening.
The advent of the internet can be broken down into subsets regarding life on the internet before and after. How many of you can relate?
- Email and learning how to use it
- “Why shouldn’t I use all caps?” (some people still don’t get this)
- “I didn’t get that email” (remember when there was no request for receipt?)
- E Bulletin Boards
- “Wow, there are people who want to talk about my hobby?” (you got up early to check on that thread before work)
- Learning to avoid arguments and one-upmanship (remember before flamewars existed?)
- What’s this new GUI thing? (good thing you knew how to type)
- Online Gaming (remember BEFORE there was nothing more pressing than whacking your opponent in Doom or Quake?)
- Skype, FaceTime (hard to imagine now that you couldn’t see distant young relatives grow up without ever meeting them)
- Social Media (remember that thing with numbers, buttons, dials and a handset that you talked into? Does anyone still have a parent or grandparent who sends jokes via email?)
What’s sad and ironic is about the internet is that it divides people into separate camps. There are the digital natives as opposed to the prehistoric critters who will never fully benefit from its use. There are those who:
- get it VERSUS those who don’t get it or refuse to get it
- think they’ll lose their connection to people if they use it VERSUS those who think they’ll lose their connection to people if they don’t use it.
- criticize others for being dependent on it VERSUS those who criticize others for still using the phone book
Then there are those of us who are straddling the line between these divisions. It’s second nature for us to understand both worlds. Some of us still have to teach a parent or grandparent, carefully ensuring we don’t become impatient and just give up. (“Sweetie, can you get me on the interwebs?”) But we’re the best ones in the world to help them, because we remember learning too while it developed.
And there’s a lot of controversy about how worse or better off we are now that the world has been changed forever by always having this tool at our fingertips. Pre-internet relics can list every negative impact it has had and digital natives will argue that for every negative, there’s a benefit.
Which side of the line are you on, or are you straddling it? Are you guilty of any of the following?
- an incessant need to look up every detail that becomes a question or argument
- checking social media 10 or 20 or 50 times a day
- allowing constant notifications dinging, buzzing or adding exciting little red badges to your apps
- all out rage when people use their devices in theatres and meetings, even after reminders
- criticizing couples or friends at restaurants, who don’t interact but attend to their devices (is it really so wrong?)
- scheduling screen-free time for your family (enduring their whines) so they’ll understand what it was like
Ok, so you’re in both camps. Congratulations, you are a PIRDN! You’re in the club with us combination pre-internet relic / digital natives. I think it’s kind of a good place to be – in a class of our own!