06 November, 2013

Life in the Digital Age*

What is "the digital age" and when did it start? 
That is the question that I first wanted to know before writing about this. This is an extract
from Wikipedia (Digital Revolution page):


  • Cell phone subscribers: 11.2 million [2]
  • Internet users: All Internet users at this time were indexed in a phone book sized directory.


  • Cell phone subscribers: 12.4 million (0.25% of world population in 1990)[3]
  • Internet users: 2.8 million (0.05% of world population in 1990)[4]


  • Cell phone subscribers: 1,174,000,000 (19% of world population in 2002)[4]
  • Internet users: 631 million (11% of world population in 2002)[4]


  • Cell phone subscribers: 4 billion (67% of world population in 2010)[5]
  • Internet users: 1.8 billion (26.6% of world population in 2010)[6
My entry into the digital age
Which makes me rather a late-comer to the digital age. I went to university in the early 1990s. The only reason I used a computer then was as a word processor. There were few computers in our residential college of something like 300 women. So I rarely used the computer, because it was stressful, scheduling-wise.

In my first job, starting 1995, I shared a computer with a colleague from another department. Again, we used the computer for writing reports, and recording work statistics. We had car-phones at work. My electrician dad had a 2-way radio for a long time so that my mum (who worked at the home office) could contact him about jobs while he was out.

The first computer I owned was my new husband's, when we married in 1997. At that time the only email access we had was at his work, so I'd type emails and save them to a disc that he took to work. The first time I saw the internet was in my new job that same year.

Sometime between then and 1999 we got dial-up internet access at home (a slow affair), and a computer that could manage it.

I didn't own a mobile phone until about 2006/7. In 2008 we bought our first iPod. When did we join Facebook? Was that also 2008? And the list goes on: our first digital camera, video camera, DVD player, iPhone, multiple lap-tops at home, etc.

My life now
Now I spend a lot of time on the internet. My job depends on it. I produce a quarterly magazine from my dining room. Email access is compulsory for missionaries. Almost all the communications without the mission are done via email or the internet.

Now we ponder such questions as, "What did we do before Google or YouTube or Skype?" and "How did we find someone in a crowded public space before we had mobiles?"

Just yesterday I wrote here about recruiting editing staff for Japan Harvest, using Facebook. In a Facebook-less world that would never have happened.

Despite having a mobile phone, I don't talk on the phone much anymore. I'd rather email, or text someone. (But I've never been confident with phones, now I'm even more out of practice.)

Pluses and minuses
The digital age has been a definite plus for those of us living overseas, we can keep in touch with those at home much more easily (and cheaply). But it does bring with it the temptation to not live fully where you are. To spend your time engaging in the virtual world of your home country, rather than immersing yourself in your surroundings.

It's brought convenience to our sons in being able to access the same documents at school and work, to be able to submit completed work digitally. But it has also brought many temptations for young ones with it. Temptations they aren't equipped to deal with: prioritising of time (in the face of the very addictive internet), the ease of access to unsuitable material, and the lack of privacy that can come with too much sharing of information.

One of the things I was really looking forward to in our camping trip up north was the absence of internet. I'm rather tied to it in my work. Just keeping up with email is quite a large daily job for me. It was refreshing to be away from it for the most part of a month, and it was hard to get back into it when we returned. But it did mean that I wasn't able to do my job, which was the point of a holiday. So yeah, I'm rather dependent on it now.

*This is in response to a writing prompt from here.


Judie said...

Am I digital-dependent?
Well, I left my phone at work yesterday and missed a doctor's appointment today. I'd have missed a podiatrist's appointment tomorrow, except they rang the home phone. (& I don't usually give out the home phone number!)
I now have my phone back, and the FIRST thing I did, after checking for missed calls, messages & appointments, was message Jeanna to say I had it back.
And the first thing I did when I got home was get on the computer & Facebook - to post my daily photo, of course! Good excuse?
So I think, yes, I'm dependent. Profoundly so. I purposely don't go online until after about 12 each day, or I'd never get anything done.

Wendy said...

Judie, do you ever ask yourself, "What would I do if all this was taken away?" or "What did I used to do before I had this?"

I try to get off the computer before 8.30pm otherwise I have trouble going to sleep, but in reality I do little here after the boys come home from school about 4.

Ken Rolph said...

We had some bushfires in Western Sydney over the past weeks. One was pretty close to us and destroyed almost 200 houses. A large cloud of brown smoke covered half the sky.

A few days after the fires started my wife was teaching a Year 9 class. Someone mentioned that one of the teachers was absent because of the bushfires. One of the students asked, "Was there a bushfire?" In fact there were more than 90, most of them still burning as she spoke.

What sort of world does this young girl live in? Does she never take her eyes of the screen to look at the sky? Is she not able to interpret what she sees in the world around her? Is she immune to any sort of news media?

The digital world is supposed to expand people's personal worlds to engage with the whole world. But for some it seems to shrink their world to an intense ongoing engagement with a very small number of people and a very small number of topics.

Wendy said...

Well, Ken, it does depend on what you use the digital world for. It can expand your world, or it can shrink it.

Meredith said...

Thanks for a great overview of the digital world. So many benefits - and a whole new set of things to think about and decide upon as we navigate this new(ish) world.