Saturday, 7 February 2015

Old Dogs, New Tricks

I read this on the internet the other day: “It was bad enough when your parents signed up for Facebook, but now the wave of social media confusion has swept up your grandparents. It’s estimated that 22% of grandparents are now using social media, and probably 90% of them are using it horribly wrong. Prepare thyself, it’s only a matter of time before nana announces in all caps on your wall that’s she’s eating more fiber and regular again.” They could have added: "Why won't they just learn?"

Oh, I’m learning, all right. I’m learning that it’s not cool to use my son’s wall to ask why he’s posting when he should be marking students’ papers and exams. I’m learning that sometimes when you see what your nieces and nephews have been up to on Facebook, you wish you hadn’t looked. (Not you, Gini.) I’ve learned that you don’t sign off a Facebook post to your grandchild with the words, “Love, Oma xxx”. I’ve learned a whole new vocabulary: stalking, trolling, unfriending, and an alphabet soup of capital letters: LOL, LMAO, and WTF (although grandmas shouldn’t be using those last three letters, ever – who knew that it didn’t mean “We Think Fast” or  “Waiting for Tea”?)

Apparently, the youngsters who wrote the beginning paragraph think you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. Facebook, Twitter and the like is beyond oldsters, and WTH, let’s add cell phones to the list. The old crows buy their cell phones, then walk around the mall with the Hallelujah Chorus emanating from their handbags. Eventually, they realize someone is calling them, but by the time they get their phone out, the caller has hung up. There they stand, helplessly squinting at the flashing light on the screen, wondering how to retrieve the message. A mailbox? A password? Do I swipe left or right? Why won’t this ##@@%% thing work? (True confessions time: guilty as charged.)

 “Why won’t they just learn?” ask the digitally savvy.

In one respect, they’re right.  Sometimes we think because we know about phones, how different could it be to operate the latest model? But the people who know all about cell phones and can make them dance, sing, and even cook dinner, maybe,  had to learn how to use them once upon a time. “Why won’t you learn?” they ask. And gerontologists point out that sometimes, we “people of a certain age” just can’t learn well anymore because we’ve stopped cultivating the habit of learning. We’re coasting on our past accomplishments. @TEOTD*, we’ll B LFT BHND BCOS we’re 2LZY 2 KP up. (I’m making this up as I go along, but it sounds good. I’m tempted to say I’ll cross stitch this reminder and put in on my fridge, but then again, perhaps I should get with the times (GWTT) and store it in a digital file.)

However, there is good news, friends! Hurrah! Studies (well, at least one study, which is what I choose to believe) says that OH YES (caps mean I’m shouting this), old people can learn new tricks. They just don’t do it as fast as young people because – get this! – they have so much more information tucked away in the grey matter that needs to be filtered and evaluated. The phone rings: my grey matter immediately zings back and forth between old memories of the wall box where you had to lift the receiver and talk to the operator; the rotary dial phone that hung on the wall in our hallway; the push button bedside model; the first remote models, that you could take outside with you (but not too far, or you’d lose the conversation.) And don’t get me started on numbers: the first phone number I memorized as a kid – LE 7-7778; the party line we had out in the country: 987-2488; the number we had for 22 years in town ... etc. etc. That’s a lot of stuff  that young folks don’t have stored, nor do they need to remember, because it’s all in their digital directory (but one day they’ll be sorry, because the phone will die, and they’ll be lost.) Do I hear an AMEN! PREACH IT, SISTER? Oh, sorry, got carried away. The bottom line is, we haven’t lost much – just speed. And when you slow down, you learn something of an entirely different sort.

You learn that hanging out with your 6 year old grandson for one day a week is delightful, even if you don’t get much done. He has young knees, so he’s good at picking up pins off my studio floor. Once, he found 52 of them. For my part, I’m the moneybags: I pay him 2 cents per pin. We’re both happy. I’m learning that without all the gadgets and electronic doodads to distract me, it’s easier to be present in the moment, enjoying the small things life has to offer: a cup of tea in the afternoon, the sound of birds in the garden, the squish of wet grass under your feet.

You learn that life is shorter than you think, so you take a deep breath and savour it. You learn to  appreciate the people who invented Facebook, and Skype, and perfected a cell phone that takes photos, and who keep pushing boundaries. They’re teaching us that there are so many things out there that are exciting, and that if we try, if we keep on learning, we too can join that select society which  is IMing and LOL.

*@TEOTD = at the end of the day.

PS: I blew it. In 2014, I declared January 19 Wholly Crow Day (See post for Jan. 18, 2014). I forgot to remind you a few weeks ago to celebrate that important day.  If you need a reason to have a party, Wholly Crow Day might be a good theme. Better late than never.

I decided to update the Wholly Crow poster by giving the bird a cell phone. She's a quick study; it will be no problem for her.

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