5 Critical Skills We Must Never Lose in the Information Age

by Belinda Munoz on October 1, 2009


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possibilities it offers, our mind’s reach becomes limited, our efficiency stunted and quite possibly our imagination outdated, dulled, and to an extent, diminished.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.


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

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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Justin- AlittleBetter.net October 1, 2009 at 7:07 am

Great list. Though I think that the variety of information on the internet is actually forcing a rise in discernment skills. I know it has for me.


2 Ben Leon Guerrero October 1, 2009 at 10:52 am

My friend Belinda,

This is another excellent one and I am sending this one around. Also to anyone reading this please keep the whole south pacific region in your hearts, as many are dealing with problems from the weather.

I look forward to your next writings with great anticipation and much respect.


3 Fr. Michael October 1, 2009 at 1:47 pm

Technology is a paradox: it has made our lives both more efficient and more complicated! Technology is a wonderful servant, but a bad master. The most important thing is for us to continue to focus on the inestimable dignity of every human person; in other words, we must be careful not to treat human beings like we treat technology: as an object for our use. Persons are to be loved; technology is to be used.

Thanks for reminding of us this important truth!


4 Jeffrey Tang October 1, 2009 at 2:05 pm

I wholeheartedly agree, Belinda. Communication will always be between people, no matter where technology takes us. There’s nothing wrong with using the Internet to connect with people, but so much gets lost when we relegate conversations to nothing but chatrooms and emails.

How do we develop discernment? I think it comes partially from mentors and parents and teachers, and partially from trial and error. I find it ironic how hard we try to shield others from any sort of consequences for their mistakes, when it is these consequences that teach us to grow and think and prosper.


5 Bob Bessette October 1, 2009 at 4:40 pm

I must admit you are an excellent writer! This post is like a piano concerto in words.
I especially like this post because you are keeping people honest. It’s not all about the technology. It all comes down to true emotions and feelings. We all must practice the skills that you listed instead of just keeping our heads down in our computer. I worry about the kids these days who spend their whole days communicating via Facebook rather than a good conversation in person or on the phone. Technology can bring us together but it can also hinder us from learning the true human skills that we all should develop.



6 Love October 1, 2009 at 5:10 pm

I agree with Bob. You are an excellent writer! This could be another favorite post of mine.

Others may really have the skills you enumerated and there’s danger of losing them because of addiction to technology but I must say there are so many who totally do not possess them. And that is the sad part because we cannot always connect with people through twitters, facebook, etc; we cannot develop friendship with strangers or show concern to the needy unless we have at least a little bit of those.


7 LoloReads October 1, 2009 at 6:09 pm

What I love about Belinda’s work is her ability to distill and clarify, and to give voice to thoughts we are not even aware of having. Reading this blog is like taking several cleansing breaths. Thank you.


8 Jai Kai - SharingSuccess.tv October 1, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Great post and excellent points. All these skills are essential as we connect personally with others – face to face. I recently have followed the “No Impact Man” on his blog and how he set a mission to live green and sustainable without technology and how he was forced to really live these skills you mentioned here. Thanks for this wonderful post.


9 Liberty October 1, 2009 at 9:58 pm

This is an excellent read!


10 Malo October 1, 2009 at 10:20 pm

It’s such a pleasure to read this post. Your gift in writing is clearly revealed here, Belinda!

I especially am concerned with critical thinking. Information age has provided a whole new level in the gaming field. People make a career out of it. It’s very enticing and addictive. I wonder what good it brings to our youth?


11 Belinda Munoz October 2, 2009 at 10:53 pm

@Justin, thanks for stopping by! Good to hear that has been your experience. I hope it’s true for everyone else…

@Ben, thank you for your friendship. I’m happy to hear this post resonates with you. I hope your loved ones are safe…

@Fr. Michael, I really appreciate your insights. I find myself barely able to keep up with technology most of the time. Every now and then, I wonder if those who don’t have access to the technology many of us take for granted are the lucky ones…

@Jeffrey, great point. I certainly am guilty of that when I’m alone with my son. I worry and my instinct is to protect him from getting hurt. But you’re right, we learn valuable lessons from mistakes and hot cycle accidents and crash landings, etc.

@Bob, thank you for such a wonderful compliment! I agree; technology can be a double-edged sword. I hope that we all remember to seek balance because technology can really suck us in if we let it.

@Love, wow, another one! Thanks. I think one of the ways to counter these concerns is to lead by example. Easier to say, harder to do…

@LoloReads, many thanks for such a nice compliment! I’m all for cleansing breaths — something I learned from one of my yoga instructors.

@Jai Kai, great to see you here! Thanks for weighing in. I will check out the “No Impact Man”.

@Liberty, thanks!

@Malo, thank you! You bring up a good point. The gaming field is a whole other ball o’ wax. It must be great entertainment and good for eye-hand coordination, but I would imagine it could suck up a lot of time and numb some part of the brain…hopefully temporarily with no long-term effects…


12 Rose Joy Milan October 5, 2009 at 3:53 pm

You, indeed, are gifted and talented with a great communication skill.
You are right! Although we’re blessed with all these modern technology gadgets, we should not lose sight of the importance of critical thinking and our need to actually connect with people.
Your son has grown and become more handsome.



13 Melissa March 1, 2012 at 12:53 am

Wow –s o true. I love this post and am going to pass it around so hopefully it hits a lot of people so they won’t forget the feeling of talking to another human on the phone. I know exactly what you meant by not being able to tell weather the person on the other side of an email is hurt, scared, happy or what. If they’re trying to reaching out, I’m sure I’ve missed it at times. And I must say you are a VERY good writer. If I could write like you, I’d be posting, guest posting and blogging everywhere!

To Not Turning Into A Digibeing and forgetting who YOU are!


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