I am a dinosaur.

It’s becoming more obvious by the day.

They’ve discontinued my shoe style. They’ve discontinued my favourite clothing styles. They’ve discontinued my TV shows. They’ve redone all my favourite cereals and snacks into new boxes and wrappers so I can’t recognize them anymore.

My eyes aren’t so great now. I’m into multifocal lenses. My vanity makes me pay the extra money to avoid the lines on the lenses that marked bifocal wearers for so long; but alas, I’m still in need of the magnification because my eyes aren’t getting any younger.
My knees creak and I groan when I’m forced into a position that isn’t upright or sitting and working out gets harder every time I do it. Recently, I got onto a fitness kick and read that hula hooping was THE BEST exercise for core strength. So immediately I decided I’d just pick up a hula hoop and go to town getting in shape. Well, I’m here to tell you that just remembering that you’re good at hula-hooping is not the same thing as actually hula hooping when you’re older and haven’t done it for 30 years! Took me quite a while before I could get back into that!

But one of the biggest ways I know I’m a dinosaur is technology. Don’t get me wrong….I’m really good on a desktop computer; I have a job that depends on using a computer and the Internet every day. I even have a small laptop that I take on trips and things to do e-mail and keep up on events in the world. I have also made the change from film to digital photography. I have a cell phone, long for a smartphone, no longer have a house phone (landline), and I can Skype with the best of them. So I feel I’ve kept up pretty well.

But……watching my son with his electronic gizmos and fighting to get him to take part in a family conversation instead of playing with his gadgets while we’re at a restaurant has opened my eyes further. Even a few years ago when my older son was at college, his roommate would be in next room and they’d send each other a message on the computer rather than get up and speak face-to-face. I find that happening even with my young son now when he’s upstairs on his computer and I’m downstairs on my computer. Easier to send that message than to get up and have that face-to-face.

And so it goes on like this…..people getting further and further away from people with the advent of all these great and new mediums of communication we have…..the darker side of all this latest and greatest electronics hoopla. This is the side that means people aren’t learning how to deal with people face-to-face and the side that has created a generation of kids that has a lot more to say online than they ever would in person and a lot of it really isn’t very nice.

There is a braveness that comes with the subterfuge of a computer screen and a screen name that would never happen in person. In person, we can see if we’ve hurt someone’s feelings or delivered a crushing blow. We can see if the person is sensitive to something we’re relating. You can’t see that with an e-mail….a string of words on a white screen where it’s up to the reader to put his own inflection into the words and determine the way it was intended. I myself have been victim of someone really hurting me through e-mail…things were written that never would’ve been said to my face because it’s a lot harder to hurt someone in person, isn’t it? Manners make you hold your tongue a lot better face to face. It’s also very easy to ignore an e-mail or a text message that you don’t want to deal with – just delete it and pretend you didn’t notice. In the cyber world, everyone is bolder, even if it is in a passive aggressive way sometimes.

My sister is a master at texting – anytime, anywhere. Even if she’s in the middle of a conversation with you standing right in front of her, she’ll take any text or answer any call that comes in on her phone….no matter about the real person standing right in front of her. But she’s not the only one. In fact, it’s a trait she’s passed on to her 16-year-old daughter. No reprimand is forthcoming if the daughter ignores the people in the room to take a text or won’t make eye contact with someone speaking with her because she’s too busy looking at her phone. Nothing at all is said. She’s learned by her mother’s example of ignoring her that no manners are required in the face of technology.

In this new cyber world, I’m hearing a lot of parents out there saying “Oh, I monitor how much time he has on electronics,” or “It keeps him out of trouble,” or even “Well, we can’t hold it back, it’s how the world is going and he has to keep up with his friends or be left behind.” On and on it goes and okay, maybe it’s right that you can’t hold it back and they need to keep up and certainly we do have to monitor what the kids are doing online. But……I’m not hearing the call for a new set of manners to go along with all this newfound technology. This dinosaur sees a need.

We must impress on people as soon as they are given a device that the human being in front of them takes precedence over anything coming in on that device. It also needs to be explained that face-to-face conversation always beats the indistinctness of online communication. Wouldn’t it be reasonable to also instruct on cyber etiquette in schools along with the hour they take to get kids better able to navigate the cyber world?

Going forward, the thinking needs to focus more on how technology can bring people closer and not just ignore all that it’s taking away. Until that happens, we’re going to continue our downward decline into an ill-mannered society. While it is important to teach people how to take advantage of technology, it’s also our duty to keep people connected to each other and able to deal with people here in the real world and to arm them with a new set of manners to keep things moving forward and not sliding into a mannerless place.

Dinosaurs like me see this now even with our old eyes….I wonder how long it will be before the hatchlings catch on?


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