The world is getting smaller, so are you and I. Pc Munoz with Ingrid Chavez
With a mere click of a button, we can have meaningful interactions with perfect strangers clear across the continent or several oceans.
We can proudly broadcast our homemade movies or our thoughts in print, turning us into instant filmmakers and published authors, and share our works of art with the rest of the world within seconds. We can mobilize millions of citizens around a cause, or dialogue in real time with far-flung friends and loved ones at any time of day, from virtually anywhere.
Such are the benefits of living in this gift of a time.
It was only less than a generation ago when the World Wide Web was created. Before then, when the world seemed so much bigger than it is today, digital music, online shopping or even the ever-present blogs would’ve been inconceivable but to only a handful of techies.
Without embracing the information age, we are in danger of becoming out of touch. Refusing to get with the program (an e-mail account for starters) is like refusing to take your vitamins. Without vitamins, we deprive our bodies of nutrients we fail to get from foods alone. Without participating in the information age, we rob ourselves of the richness and the possibilities it offers, our mind’s reach becomes limited, our efficiency stunted and quite possibly our imagination outdated, dulled, and to an extent, diminished.
As a GenX’er in my 30s whose fortes don’t include technology, I still have vivid memories of floppy disks, MacTV (the first computer I ever owned), cassette tapes and, heaven forbid, typewriters. I’m knocked a little bit out of my comfort zone just getting this blog up. But having waded lightly in the shallow waters of Twitter, Facebook, and the Diggits and the Reddits of the social media world, I am fascinated by this still-evolving revolution we are witnessing.
Still, I feel nostalgic when I see abandoned buildings that used to house music in every tangible form, or when I recall a newspaper I once read but has since gone out of business. Yet, I appreciate e-books and Kindle and Itunes. I get wistful, but, like a good adaptable human, I welcome this move toward an existence with less material things.
Yet, as vast as the virtual possibilities are that the information age presents, so are the possibilities for us to become more and more out of touch with the less digital side of life.
SKILLS BEYOND THE COMPUTER
As we click further and deeper into the internet, we must make a conscious effort to keep our non-digital skills alive. Here are but a few that we hope will never be in danger of disappearing:
1. Interpersonal skills. As powerful as words are in print, nothing beats a heartfelt hug or a warm smile from someone who cares. We are tactile beings and we need contact. We ache for approval, for validation, and any deficits will manifest in some undesirable way. A smiley face is not a smile. An “LOL” is not a hearty laugh. I’ll take a facial expression over any emoticon any day.
2. Telephone skills. Online chats are fine for those who type well, but for those who value inflections, tones, and the occasional simultaneous bonding laughter, context trumps text. After all, do we not have a voice so we can speak?
3. Listening skills. When we listen to songs, we hear the sounds, the instruments and maybe the occasional unique riff. Some of us may hear the lyrics if they’re substantive. When we listen to a person speak, we process not only the words but also the emotion. Emotions are harder to betray when words are spoken. When we hear someone speak, we sense hesitation, fear, sarcasm, defensiveness, etc. When a person types a comment to a blog post, we may not pick up on slight nuances that person is feeling unless the commenter eloquently conveys them with carefully chosen words.
4. Discernment skills. Ah, how tempting it is to believe that if it’s on the internet, it must be true. If it’s on Wikipedia, it must be factual. But the real trap is knowledge of information (correct or incorrect) does not equate knowing how to act based on what knowledge we possess. What we do with what we know is far different from simply knowing what we know. Don’t you think?
5. Critical thinking skills. I’m unsure as to how these are acquired besides taking philosophy classes, but I doubt that clicking away on the internet is the path that leads us here. Perhaps, more years under our belt? Maybe a few more bruises as we zealously/cautiously stumble/plow through life? A little more reflection and introspection? More harsh truths? More gentle lies?
I’m excited about these times we’re living in — not just digitally but also philosophically and politically. Times that hit us in the face with bitter truths and happy lies on surprise-filled paths. They’re tumultuous yet promising. Moving and evolving. Changing yet hopeful. But more than these promises, I love knowing that at the end of the day, if the power goes out or Twitter goes down, I can connect with real, actual, live people. Not keyboards. Not monitors. Not widgets. Not plugins. People. People who I hope will never lose the ability to respond to a cry for help, a plea for attention, a request for validation, an appeal to sympathy, a call to action…
Know that although in the eternal scheme of things you are small, you are also unique and irreplaceable, as are all your fellow humans everywhere in the world. — Margaret Laurence
Image by Daniel E Bruce