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March 26, 2009

A Road Map for the Digital Immigrant

http://www.jewishjournal.com/blog/item/a_road_map_for_the_digital_immigrant_39090325/

Welcome to my new blog for the Jewish Journal. Technology reviews have become very commonplace and it isn’t my intent to add one more column to the already long list that report on the latest techno-gadgets. In debating whether to write a blog for the Journal I decided it would only be worthwhile if I could write it from a “different” perspective.

Personally, growing up in Australia in the 60’s and 70’s, the closest I came to technology was using one of those yo-yos that lit up at night. Years later I found myself owning a growing software development company at the center of the personal computer revolution in the 1980’s and 90’s. We marvelled at everything that could be done with our new devices and took tremendous satisfaction in developing new ideas into products. Technology became my passion. Much like the immigrant that comes to a new country, I could appreciate things that natives took for granted ... while also maintaining the perspective of what life was like before technology overtook every aspect of our daily existence.

Textbooks talk about groups of “technology natives” and “technology immigrants”. Natives grew up using technology at every turn whereas technology immigrants have had to adapt and integrate technology into their everyday lives. If you’re a digital immigrant you may be overwhelmed by the constant flow of new gadgets. You’re always yelling at your kids to get off their devices and go outside and play. There are times it feels like pushing water uphill. Technology is taking over everything in your life but you struggle with how and where to use it at work and play.

This column is for you - the digital immigrant.

How can you tell if you’re a “digital immigrant”? I’ve come up with a list of 10 simple signs that will let you know:

10. You use phrases such as “When I was a kid..”. If you’re already nodding in agreement then please do us both a favor and stop here. There’s really no point in wasting time reading the rest of this article. Life is too short ... especially in your case.
9. You think “Flash” is an obscene gesture.
8. You keep complaining that the keys on your cell phone were made for people with “smurf fingers”.
7. You’ll text on occasion but you simply can’t bring yourself to type abbreviated phrases such as “how r u” and “lol”.
6. You have at least one digital clock in your house that has been flashing “12:00am” for the past few months.
5. When encountering a technical problem you flee in panic searching for the nearest 10 year old.
4. You curse while trying to type simple text messages on your cell phone. Anyone looking over your shoulder would see phrases such as “whga5t ar3we 7yplo” on your screen ... clearly you don’t have smurf fingers.
3. When your friend tells you that he has a new Blackberry in his pocket you warn him that the stain will never come out.
2. When told that your computer needs new memory chips you request “barbecue flavored”.
1. You’re over 25 years old.

If you’re over 50 years old - which I am - then technically speaking you’re an “Illegal Digital Immigrant”. Apparently nobody checked your digital citizenship status when you bought that computer or cell phone. You managed to gain entrance into the digital world but let’s be honest - you’re likely to hurt yourself and really shouldn’t be there.

So come back often and join in our discussion. We’ll try and navigate through the many ways that technology might improve your life and warn you about the ways that it might potentially intrude and cause harm. Used appropriately, technology can be your best friend ... but with the perspective and wisdom that comes with being a digital immigrant we’ll see that technology isn’t always the solution. There will still be those days when you want to dust off that old yo-yo and give it another spin.

Sam Gliksman
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