The digital divide

Jaris English

Jaris English

It took me many years to learn the difference between a cord and a cable, and I’m still not sure I completely understand.

When I got my first computer, I called my daughter. She asked, “Did you attach the cable correctly to the hard drive?”

I asked, “Do you mean the black cord that goes to the wall outlet or the white one that goes — hmmm, somewhere…”

Communication devices and electronic peripherals are now linked with several other components like slithering snakes, overlapping and tangled.

Sometimes I yearn for simpler times when every appliance had one simple cord that plugged easily into a wall. Then I flipped a switch or pushed a button to make it work.

Many seniors are intimidated by the “digital divide.” A proliferation of electronics has invaded our lives and keep changing so fast that just when we finally understand one of them, there are new updated versions to learn.

I hear young people reminiscing about older electronic games like Game Boy, Pong and Atari that they remember from when they were younger. I also remember being amused by an older generation who were afraid to use a touch-tone phone, a microwave oven or an answering machine.

I’ve tried to adapt to new technologies with grace and acceptance. I have an iPhone and it’s attached to me as much as my 14-year-old grandson’s is to him.

I Google things that I’m curious about. I text and make video calls, check my email and post Facebook messages. I read about new movies on IMDB and look to see the ages of old celebrities and if they are still alive. Wikipedia has replaced my bulky encyclopedias, that you had to update every year. I share photos and videos, am addicted to several game apps and I know what an app is. I use GPS mapping and wish I had been able to track my kids when they were teenagers. I order grocery deliveries with my iPhone and I tell Alexa on the Echo, that I got for Christmas, to add things to my Amazon shopping list.

There are plenty of seniors who are more technologically proficient than I am, while others are struggling.

I think it is mostly fear. We tend to be a bit apprehensive about change and learning new things. I think it’s important to stretch a little outside of our comfort zone.

My comfort zone is at home in my lounge chair in front of the television. Recently, to save money, I cut the ties to cable television. I had to learn how to use an Amazon Firestick to “stream” television programs and movies. I learned to use the voice activated remote to switch between Hulu and Netflix and select my shows.

Even if we refuse to cross the digital divide, there are times when we are almost forced to. More doctors offices, airports and other public places have computerized sign-in screens and electronic questionnaire stations or tablets that can be intimidating if you’re not used to them.

Most clinics and hospitals now use an online medical site like eCare for communications with their patients. It is very convenient to have results of a medical test a day after it’s done. I like being able to email a question to a physician rather than hoping for a return phone call. It is also useful for keeping track of upcoming appointments and for detailed information about past office visits and billing.

Getting through the painful learning curves can be challenging, but ultimately worth the effort. I am, however, still confused by the concept of cloud-storage. I worry about my photographs that are “in the cloud” — wherever the cloud is. It seems to me that they were much safer in the physical albums next to the encyclopedias on my bookcase.

Contact author Jaris English at silverpen45@gmail.com.

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