Technology has brought about fundamental changes in the way we communicate. This has been accomplished over time, but the time has been short, and the changes large and far-reaching.
Everyone is affected by these changes, even people who have little use for technology. Because of budget constraints, educational challenges, or context issues, some people don’t have a use for even a garage door opener, much less text messaging. Let’s face it; while all professions are touched by technology, not all positions are. My garbage man’s truck has an ancient CB radio in it, precluding his need for a cell phone as part of his work.
On the other hand, some people are more accessible to their clients now. My husband, for example, is a computer geek at the university. He carries a radio, a pager and a cell phone. He has a telephone on his desk. He has a laptop that functions as his portable office. One day, his phone rang, someone walked through the office door, his radio went off and four, count them, instant message windows opened at the same time on his desktop. He wonders if it is necessary to be quite that accessible?
As a result of this disparity, some segments of the population are forced to engage with technology they don’t understand or feel they need, but that others require. It’s usually either job-related, family communications or government requirements, as in, “Fax us your health statement or we will not cover your expenses”.
A coworker was trying to explain the fax machine to a senior citizen. The poor lady had waited to send the paper till the last minute and fax was the fastest option left. My colleague explained it was like sending a letter, that the machine made a copy and sent it through the telephone lines. The woman nodded her head and then asked, “Do I have to send an envelope with it, too?”
Another man had taken a beginning internet class I was teaching. We touched on the basics: what a browser is, checking his stock quotes, emailing his children. When we were finished, he said, “I’m sure glad I took this class; I really learned something. I learned I need new glasses!” Gee, happy to help.
Most people are just as happy to have me find the site for them instead of learning how to do it themselves. One man, however, trying it on his own, really got irate. He stomped up to the desk in a huff.
“I have been sitting over there,” he pointed, “pushing the help button on my browser for ten minutes.” He glared at me. “NO ONE has come to help me!”
Stewardess. Nurse. Why not librarian? After all, we have the technology.