People who don’t get technology

I

This might sound weird coming from someone who is seriously technologically-unsavvy. However, I’d like to say to all those people who say “I don’t see the point” and roll their eyes at the latest innovation that has taken the world by storm – whether it is a touchscreen telephone, text messaing or twitter – grow up, the age of the dinosaur is over.

For example, a friend was ranting about how she doesn’t get Facebook. Her reason was the oft-mentioned: “The people I want to be in touch with, I am by email”. Incidentally, this person is in corporate communications which makes the whole thing very sad. Social networking is already part of public relations strategies worldwide. If you’re in PR and you don’t get Facebook, I fear for your job.

Then, there are those that can’t understand the point of Twitter. Or blogs. Weirdly, someone who has a blog and facebook, may be anti-twitter, though they are all extensions of the same thing in different variations.

Of course, one can humbly say “I don’t get it” and wait to be enlightened or move on. But there’s an arrogance to this “Idgi”. It’s idgi and people who do are strange or idiotic. What these people don’t get is that them not getting it displays a lack of insight on their part, which is really nothing to be proud of.

For example, if millions of people are hooked onto something, wouldn’t it be more productive to ponder why and leave it at to-each-his-own? Most of these technologies are purely optional (apparently even to people working in fields like corporate communications where one would think engaging with them would be mandatory) so if you dgi, then desist but don’t demean. Say “it’s not for me” and move on. Life goes on without your presence on that particular technology.

This is not to say that I “get” every new thing that comes along. For example, I’m not into videogames. But I accept that some people are and I’m not and that’s all there is to it. And I give it thought because if millions of people are into it, maybe there’s something there. For someone who tended towards the cult, I now find the popular fascinating. Maybe because I’ve realised that cult is just another way of being popular while presuming intellectual superiority which is frankly rather stupid. (The last bit is a digression so can be ignored.)

Now for those who still don’t get it, remember there are people out there who proudly don’t get sms, email or ATM cards. Do you really want to be part of this group?

II

Ok, and to explain what I “get” about certain technology. Note that this is purely what I get out of the technology, especially in the case of Twitter, and that the success of the technology often means that there are different aspects that appeal to different people:

1. SMS: It’s useful for contacting people who are in meetings or who you aren’t sure when to call. It’s useful for people who are in meetings, if they’re bored.

2. Instant messaging/chat: It started out by being a way for people to simulate conversation when phone calls were too expensive. Now there’s skype. But you still can’t skype in the office. It’s also useful for intra-office conversations where you don’t want the five people around you to hear your discussion.

3. Email: God, do I even need to explain this one? It’s useful for longer conversations that would be unwieldy on chat. It’s useful when you want communication but not immediacy. You want to be given the time to think out a response or to let the other person think out a response (in the same way that you might use sms instead of calling). It’s a more formal means of communication because emails are generally saved.

4. Facebook: Its beauty lies in combining a number of functions – email, chat, photo uploads, games, linking to news, networking etc – and providing endless timepass. It is like reality TV for officegoers. By making it public, it appeals to the voyeur in all of us but it also includes enough private stuff (like private messaging) to keep some people engaged. So why use PM instead of email? Because so many people are hooked onto the different aspects of FB that they check it more often. The serious stuff would still go on email for me (because for some reason you can’t attach files, unless they’re photos, on facebook). Why add friends you wouldn’t talk to otherwise? For exactly that reason. Because it gives you a socially acceptable way to be in touch and to not be in touch. To have just that faint line of contact if ever needed. It’s called networking and clearly there’s no shame in doing it in person, so why diss doing it more efficiently online where the fake smile is unnecessary. And of course, because looking at people’s photos is always good timepass. [1.2.3. and 4. are to varying degrees very successful with people like me who prefer textual communication. I’ve realised that there are obviously many such people in the world]

5. Twitter: One of the aspects of Facebook I like (and which clearly became immensely popular) is the status message thing. Some people, imo, take it to narcissistic lengths by updating multiple times a day. I draw the line at once a day though I generally enjoy reading even the frequent updates unless they are of the “staring at the fan” variety. Status updates have unleashed a new brand of creativity, turning the inanity of one’s life into amusement. The other thing I enjoy on Facebook is the links to various news articles my friends link to and the ensuing discussions. Again, these might be friends I might otherwise engage with on email. And these are articles I might not have found myself because really, there’s a limit to how many newspapers one can read. So it’s nice to have someone else do the selecting. For me, Twitter combines both of these. The people I follow are those that have amusing status updates, or link to interesting reads. Moreover, Twitter is the anti-blog. There’s an art in being concise and pithy, especially in the personal updates.

6. Blogs: Again, the uses of blogs are too extensive to coalesce anymore. They range from personal diary stuff, rants on social issues, links to news and independent reporting. I think common thread, and what attracts me, is the personal voice. Even when it’s news, blog writers generally have more freedom to lend a personal voice to their writing and I think people appreciate that. So, I appreciate newspapers for the breath of news and the attempt at neutrality and I appreciate blogs for being the opposite of that.

Ok I can’t think of any more. The end.

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