Thursday, October 29, 2009

The electronic generation gap

For my generation, I’m competent regarding computer usage. I employ Microsoft Word and Excel regularly, manage my photos and—when I have time—do a little Facebooking. I also know how to use most of the features on my phone, although my kids laugh at my text lingo or lack thereof.

My point is, I do OK in this technological world...I get by…I’m somewhat “in the know.” Which seemed like enough until yesterday, when I walked into the kitchen and watched M. text on her cell phone, check e-mail on her iPod and play Club Penguin on the computer…all at the same time. I realized my meager efforts weren’t even close to proficient.

I am a definite product of my generation—a detailed scan of my brain would look meager compared to M’s. I’m sure hers lights up in areas mine has never considered using. She has millions of synaptic connections related to computers and video games that I never developed—so do my sons.

Sometimes, I feel sad about this fact, because it makes me seem far older than I am. No comments from the peanut gallery. But most of the time, I’m just amazed by my children’s capabilities.

As I watched M. yesterday, carrying on multiple, electronic conversations, I started to laugh. While I can successfully multi-task, I cannot do so while carrying on a conversation. My brain just doesn’t allow it—I don’t have the crucial synaptic connections between verbal and motor areas.

Granted, part of this might be genetic, but part of it relates to growing up when watching a handful of TV stations and listening to American Top 40 was the extent of electronic exposure. Turning the UHF knob to get a clear picture of Ultra Man was the peak of complexity.

So, I sit this morning, drinking coffee, contemplating the generation gap between me and my children, and wondering about the potential gap between them and theirs. What if texting supplants verbal phone conversations? What if IMing replaces physical meetings? I'm struggling to keep up now...when electronic communication becomes the only form, I’m in serious trouble…

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