Tuesday, February 16, 2010

February 16, 2010

It seemed as though we’d be waiting forever and yet, here it is. No, silly, not the return of your ability to metabolize 5,000 calories a day, but rather it is the last installment of this particular column on technology, specifically, a wee bit about youth and the computer.

The Technology Shuffle – Part VIII of VIII

…interests. It seems that everyone’s opinion is worth something and it’s really not about substance, but merely content. While I've hopped onto the technology superhighway in the form of Facebook and even this blog, I am no match for our young folks out there in knowing what the heck I'm doing with it. In fact, our children can hold their own with the best of the computer technicians, earning unofficial IT degrees by the time they are 16 years old that are the envy of, well, us.

But updating, maintaining, and uploading all take time and I lose interest, the will to live or consciousness if I spend too much time on that blasted Facebook because then bills don't get paid and the goldfish starts to look at me in a very accusing manner. Our kids complete these tasks lickety-split, but some of their "business" goes undone, as well, along the lines of homework, loading the dishwasher, and "Hey! Did you feed the dog? He's looking mighty skinny!" all while the IM pop-up tune plays as background music, almost like, "Pop goes the weasel."

The good news is that our youth really are writing like crazy and their worlds are large. The bad news? Nary a grammatical capitalization, an edit, nor a quick “look-see” for content, is in evidence…most of the time. It’s just “order in” and right back out, like some sort of fast food franchise for words and, as such, maybe we’ll start seeing people’s websites list “a million words served out so far,” volume being more important than subject matter.

The problem comes in, not so much in the utilization of computer technology and all that it can do that’s positive, it’s the social aspects of these endeavors that are a challenge, laying fertile ground for the growing and sowing of miscommunication. In short, you can get someone ticked off in one character or less by virtue of IMing, Facebook, AboutFace, MySpace, AboutSpace. The margin of error for misunderstanding tone, which isn’t really present in these platforms, is almost comical at times.

A seemingly innocuous query along the lines of, “What do you think you’re doing today?” takes on a whole new meaning when the recipient reads it with emphasis on the “What,” “you’re” and “doing.” Try reading that sentence to yourself that way and then try it with the more pleasant, evenly spaced tone where there is no emphasis on any one word. There’s a big difference, isn’t there? And how about when someone, even accidentally, which I have done, types a message to you with all capital letters? Doesn't the heat begin at the base of your neck and flame up and out your ears because you feel as though you've been told off?

While we’re all building our special homages to ourselves and communicating about it via the web, we’re probably also spending nearly an equal amount of time correcting misperceptions or just plain creating misperceptions that will never be corrected because, ironically enough, no one tells us that we’re coming off as insufferable twits. (Maybe because we’re all a bit guilty of that and no one really calls out their own.)

Bringing it home, as it were, to the basic premise of this column – how to help our children learn to focus and NOT multitask so much with the support of the technology we provide for them, we’ve covered quite a bit of territory here.

The bottom line on technology is the bottom line on most everything new that holds promise for added convenience: Just because it can make things easier, doesn’t mean it does. And that’s a (w)rap!


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