Traversing the Digital Divide

Traversing the Digital Divide

Judging by the people I see walking down the street, ignoring their dates in restaurants, or interrupting conversations to check the “ping!” on their device, most everyone today lives on their smart phone.

Cell PhonesI could curse the darkness. Or, deliver a series of lectures about how rude it is to pay more attention to texts than those sitting next to you. Plus, bemoan the lack of sensitivity brought on by all our modern tech toys.

Still, I saw the good side of social media recently. This insight came from working on a forthcoming story about a church that grew from less than 20 people to 900 in a little over two years, thanks to Facebook and Twitter.

Rapid Growth

With little more than a collection of family and a few friends, the pastor encouraged everyone to get on their phone and spread the word. Six months later, when they moved beyond private meetings, 348 people showed up for the launch service.

Like most churches, the number soon dwindled in half before it started steadily growing—so much that they eventually had to find a new home in a larger movie theater.

The irony to all this is that recently the 32-year-old pastor turned over their social media operations to the 20-somethings who are more skilled at electronic communications. They have added networking on sites like Snapchat and Periscope to keep the church in front of people as they cruise their connections.

For a gray-hair like me, this is all a bit bewildering. Although I have Facebook and Twitter accounts, I’m talking with a younger colleague right now about editing her book in return for some tutoring in all things digital.

A Teachable Spirit

There’s a reason I call my grandson when I face contentious computer questions. As a supervisor at Amazon, he is far more skilled at surfing the Internet, keeping up with changes in cyberspace, and advising me on downloads and laptops.

Helping a friend with technologyIt’s a bit humbling to constantly consult younger people for advice, but it never hurts to maintain that frame of mind. Which relates to a lesson I received—again, through a humbling experience—two years ago. The bottom line: I didn’t have a teachable spirit.

Once I acknowledged that truth, I started seeking ways to learn. After all, the truth was I didn’t know it all. Indeed, I wasn’t even close. And once I took this approach, I felt much younger, as if I had returned to school.

Continuing education is a bear, though. Last year, I signed up for two online courses offered by a professional editors group. Both times, I only made it through half the lessons before an onslaught of daily work overwhelmed my good intentions.

A similar thing happened when I took a pair of computer courses. I completed the classes, but fear that much of what the instructors covered has been lost because of not using the lessons often enough in daily work routines.

The Cost of Education

Education requires time and money, two things that have been in short supply as I continue to grapple with the onrushing digital revolution and the effects of the Great Recession. (I chuckle every time I hear someone say the recession ended in 2009; I think it’s still in process.)

Still, I accept the challenge. It’s the only way to maintain my sanity and avoid lapsing into Grumpy Old Man mode, complaining that I can’t understand modern life and moaning that the “good old days” are gone.

While they may be gone, I see better days ahead. I just hope I can understand them when they arrive.


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