My 94 year-old stepmother claims to be a dinosaur. Her claim is based on the fact that she can no longer keep up with a rapidly changing world. Computers, tablets, iPhones, GSPs, Facebook, Twitter, emails, texting that have all become a way of life for the younger generations have left her wallowing in the dark ages. I know how she feels.
Although I have struggled to keep up with advancing technology which, when combined with some hearing loss, bouts of forgetfulness, and eye-strain from staring at a computer monitor while I practice the wordsmith’s art, I, too, am becoming a dinosaur.
I am reminded of this on a daily basis when I am confronted with a child or grandchild who looks at me strangely when I don’t seem to comprehend that my inability to communicate in the most efficient way possible is causing difficulties in our family. They seem to think a text message is more efficient than simply walking next door and giving me a verbal message. As a dinosaur, I chalk it up to laziness. Being as a text message is a one-way communication, they don’t have to deal with grandpa asking questions or getting into a discussion about girlfriends, boyfriends, where they went last night, etc.
Acknowledging my status as a dinosaur, I miss face-to-face communication. Body language, facial and vocal expressions are an important part of communication. To me, texting is sterile, without emotion and, horror of horrors, no different than emails. However, I should have learned to keep my opinions to myself.
My middle school teacher daughter has perfected the art of communicating without making a sound. All she needs is one finger to tap out a message on a keyboard that is much too small for me to easily see. Tap it out, push a button, message sent. Simple and efficient? I have to agree. I recently learned she could also send a photo or a video with a text message. My defenses are crumbling.
A few days ago, I announced my latest project to find less expensive cell phones for my wife and myself. My wife’s phone stays in our car and is rarely used. Last month she only used one minute of air-time. I have had occasion to use some of the fancier applications on my iPhone, but I could do without them. After all, most of my life I survived without a portable phone. Do I really need to pay for all of the extra gadgets that everyone else seems to think are now indispensable to modern living? I thought not. Do I need a data plan so I can send and receive text messages? No way. I will stand firm, stuck in the mud … like a dinosaur … to be discovered some day a million years from now. I will never become a slave to these devices.
When I announced my plan to trade in our phones for simple phones that had only two purposes … make calls and receive calls … my daughter confronted me with reality.
“Dad, I know you want to save a few bucks, and I know you think sending text messages and photos is somehow unnatural and unnecessary but, let me give you a dose of reality. Each of your daughters and each of your grandchildren have cell phones and computers. This is how we communicate with each other. Communicating in this manner is fast, efficient and … it is the world we live in.”
Then, she lowered her head a bit, looked me in the eyes and with raised eyebrows said, “If you want to stay in the loop, see the photos of your grandchildren’s latest activities and know what’s going on in our world, you need to rethink your decision.”
After much thought, I have come to agree with her. My world has changed, and in some ways I need to change with it. If I can find a phone with larger buttons I might give in. But, secretly, I am still a dinosaur.