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Yesterday evening, my mom was particularly excited by something she saw on the news channel, and repeated the headline to me, clearly in anticipation of some reaction. I found myself lipping the mantra of the Millenials, “Tell me something new”, possibly in a bored countenance. She seemed a bit offended and alienated. In retrospect, I regret my casual dismissal of her excitement, and it set me thinking.
The internet generation attaches (undue?) importance to the credibility of information obtained through the world wide web. For example, before planning a trip, I searched several websites, despite my uncle having already furnished me with all the information I needed, thanks to his familiarity with my destination. For some twisted reason, online reviews by complete strangers evoked more confidence in me than my uncle’s first hand experience.
I researched on the topic; I realized I was not alone in my conceit. According to many of my peers, they feel superior to their previous generation, owing to their comfort with technology. There might be some merit in this understanding.
According to a much discussed Flynn Effect, generations are, in fact, getting cognitively and scientifically, smarter with the proliferation of technology, on standardized IQ tests.
There are many explanations to this finding, and it doesn’t necessarily prove our smartness. It proves that our post-science teaching methodology has made us better poised to do well on IQ tests. If there was a method to test overall personality development of an individual, I wonder whether we would still have the same conclusion?
Despite my engineering background and logical mind, or so I believe, I completely fail to grasp the use of a logarithm table in quick mathematical calculations, a tool that has been used fluently by my parents. Also, till date, I find my mother doing calculations mentally or my father remembering details of international history better than I do.
The case for Wisdom
The reality of the internet is far from reassuring. We have slid to the Post-Truth era, where the value of information is measured in speed over accuracy. The post-internet era is heavily tech-dependent, and possibly biased by their tech bubble. It might be possible to get a balance in the skewed online world through the experiential wisdom of the previous generation. The internet would be better-off harnessing the life-lessons of the golden age, rather than turning up its nose to their slow tech uptake.
It is probably an evolutionary characteristic to make light of the struggles of a previous generation.
The story of a grandmother, writing an elaborate message to Google before asking it a question, amuses us – it is hilarious and adorable, right?
Demonetization in India exposed the senior generation to the vulnerable world of online finances. Many of the urban, elite seniors even are struggling, even to this moment, with the vagaries of internet transactions.
But is there a way to marry the issues at hand? Could we, instead of gloating and alienating the previous generation, include them in our technological victory march? The generation needs help with accessing information in the changing world and adding value to the internet. The lag in technological knowledge is not only creating information asymmetry, it is distancing them socially from their children and grandchildren.
It’s high time that we become less conceited and teach the elderly in our lives how to use and enrich the Internet. There are many resources and websites that can help them get there, in small steps. I am determined to introduce my parents to a few. My mom is learning to play with Whatsapp and Facebook – and I am oh-so-proud. I promise not to remain smug and try and help her through. In a few months, Mom, you will read the News before I do.
Have you tried teaching your parents how to use the Internet? Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org
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