Dispatches from the Digital Revolution
Every year, my electronics-obsessed brother tries to rope the siblings into “going in” on a big tech purchase for my mother. His enthusiasm is fueled by the one gamble that paid off: the Kindle Fire. She is an English teacher and a healthy reader, but having had a death grip on her beloved HP Netbook, the purchase was questionable. Turns out, she loves it. But not in the way he expected: She doesn’t use it to read, or even surf the web. Nope, she plays Words with Friends. Maniacally. If I deigned to buy her an ebook, it would only interfere with her daily vocabulary battles against her cousin.
What my brother fails to see is that the Kindle Fire was an anomaly. This woman still tapes Days of Our Lives each day on VHS. The HDTV he got her a year ago? She never got around to buying the HD cable package. She watches blurry football games with the scores cut off and resolution off kilter, then dismisses you with a laugh and a wave of her hand when you complain.
Because, for some reason, it doesn’t interest her. In a Huffington Post article from July, Ira Wolfe noted a digital divide between baby boomers, placing boomers in two camps: those “defying age” who embrace the connectivity that technology affords, and those who are “just not getting it.”
I’d say there are many grey areas in between—my mother easily sends emails with pictures attached and acknowledges the relevancy of the Internet; but she balks at the zombie-like iPhone trances and text-messaging lunacy she sees in her students (and her children) when she’s trying to have a conversation. (Pot calling the kettle black here though, because she’s done the same to me while playing on her Kindle Fire…)
This Christmas, I hope everyone’s gambles paid off with family members, young and old. It’s risky to assume someone will benefit from a gadget that you love, or possess the same level of comfort or interest in the next new, shiny thing. Because if not, they are probably surreptitiously standing in line at the returns counter, right as we speak.