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Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wanna chat?

My family consists of my wife and five children. All but the youngest (4 year old) have experienced the internet in one way or another. Our 7 year old use to play online games, the 11 and 13 year olds both love Facebook and all the games available as well. The 17 year old would spend hour after hour “trolling.” My wife uses the internet for email, Facebook, and lots of random browsing for music and movies. My personal free-time use of the internet has actually decreased over the last year. I started out spending hour after hour browsing for random sites and following links to new sites just to see what was to offer. With the requirement to be online for my classes, the fun has ebbed.
Now, I sit working on my school-work wishing I were outside enjoying the sun instead of being stuck on the computer. My first internet experiences were sometime during the late nineties, probably about 1998 or 1999. It was all dial-up, but I loved it. It opened up my mind to all the wonderful experiences that the world had to offer. I found fascination with late night chatting with people in Australia or wherever I could find them. The chat programs ICQ and Virtual Places were regularly used. When broadband was finally available, the doors opened to a whole new experience of YouTube and online movies.
My parents, both over fifty, were exposed to the internet through me. My brother and I conspired to hook them up with a free trial period on AOL. At first, they were very skeptical. My mom, having lost a friend to a chat room stranger, was very leery of any kind of internet. After a few months, and several technical support calls to me, they were hooked. Their first computer was an old thrown-together-from-scrap-parts computer that I had built just to get them online. When that finally stopped working my dad invested in a new computer. He uses his computer mostly for news, weather, email, and browsing Ebay. They are still stuck on dial-up due to their location. Mom has recently started using Facebook and frequents it to keep in contact with friends and family.
There is clearly a divide between different generations in their use of the web, but I have talked to 70 year-olds who use the web with the same speed and efficiency as a teenager. I am sure that as these young generations get older and older we will see an amazing increase in the generational ratios for web usage. The real question is what will the next technology bring? Will there be direct cerebral hook-up that allows a person to experience true virtual life in a computer generated world? If so, will the generation that is growing up now with the internet be close minded about such things while the new youth plunge into it with open arms? Only time will tell. If history is any indication of our future, when our children become the old men and women of the world they will be as lost as our older generations today are about new technology.

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