I have just spent 20 minutes with a digital native.
I have also learnt this week that I am NOT a digital native, I am a digital immigrant. And the chances are YOU are a digital immigrant too (otherwise you would not be reading this blog) although of course you could be a native.
It’s amazing what can be acheived in 20 minutes spent with someone who has grown up in the digital era. Emma has sorted out my itouch/itunes playlist problem, downloaded all my music onto my mobile phone (something I’ve been meaning to do since I got the phone 18 months ago) and logged me on to Nike plus, setting up a 12 week training programme for my upcoming traithlon. Providing I can find this again, out there somewhere in ‘Internet world’ I’m sure it will be very useful. All this in 20 minutes! But then she is someone who is so internet/computer/iphone savvy that nothing seems to phase her. She buys goods by joining in with some internet scheme that offers group discouts (‘groupon’) and I haven’t even mastered ‘ebay’. Oh my, I am behind the times.
Mind you I do blog, twitter, facebook (an array of verbs that may be didn’t even exist six years ago?). I also read on a kindle so I can’t be doing too badly. But today’s 20 minute tutorial with my daughter put me in my place – as I walked the dog later I reflected that ‘my daughter has come home for the week-end and sorted out the parents’ just like we ‘sort out’ our elderly mothers every time we visit, the only difference is that in their case it’s usually just a case of putting the clock forward or back on the ‘video’ and programming numbers into the phone (skills which are near miraculous in their eyes).
So I felt a bit ‘old’ but at least I’m trying which is more than can be said for the ‘digital exiles’. Digital exiles are those who either through choice or through lack of competency are completely cut off from the whole social networking scene. I am a recent enough arrival on this scene to understand their fear and uncertainty but what I do find very difficult to tolerate is the ‘holier than thou’ arrogance that is sometimes expressed. When ignornance is made a ‘virtue’ along the lines of ‘I have better things to do with my time’ or ‘get a life’ I feel really irritated. Why don’t they understand that the internet world is a very real part of very real lives. It is really not at all helpful when this dislike of all things digital is expressed as if it were a superiority.
We have a great new look to our website at church (www.stmatthews.org.uk) apparently most people access the internet through their mobile phones (something else I learnt at the same lecture this week) and our new website layout is much easier to navigate from the smaller screen on a phone. We also have daily bible reading notes available to our congregation online, all the pastoral staff have blogs, facebook and twitter links, all our sermons can be down loaded as podcasts. And all of this, I heartily endorse. BUT when I look across the demograph of the congregation I realise that we have huge numbers of digital exiles in our midst most of whom will simply never incorporate the internet into their lives.
There is a real tension and irony here. What we provide digitally appeals largely to the 20-30s, the very generation that is missing from the pews. There gives much to chew over. Do we, IRL, live up to the online expectations we have created? Someone went to visit a cathedral in Second Life, she sat down to worship and take part in the online service, pausing only to realise that the ‘worshipper’ behind her was a blue hippo. (Now there’s an experience it would be hard to replicate!!)
Perhaps the answer is that like my triathlon online training programme so much of what is expressed online is aspirational, it’s about what we’d like to be, how we’d like to be seen. It’s about image management. In Real Life, the programme won’t do you any good unless you actually put on your trainers, go out the door and move your body. ‘Virtual’ fitness is an impossible dream. Heart rate, sweat and sheer physical exertion are what matter.