The Internet: Ellis Island or Primary Address?

In many ways, the internet has revolutionized social interaction, but not in the same way or to the same extent for all people. We all have friends who can’t eat dinner without having their phone on the table (or we are those friends), but we also have older relatives who don’t even have wifi in their homes. To frame the difference between these two as digital natives vs. digital immigrants was probably an appropriate start to our conversation about the impact of age on digital literacy, but as time progresses the line between the two has become less clear.

It’s important to note how much these things will change over time. In 60 years, there will be no such thing as a digital immigrant. We will all have been born and raised in the context of the digital age and will have spent a large percentage of our lives using this technology. Maybe this change from immigrants/natives to residents/visitors was just an inevitable move given the events of history. Maybe there will be an even bigger, more complex technological development that separates the youth and older generation into differing categories of digital literacy. In either case, the shift towards a spectrum of literacy identified as residents and visitors in the White and Le Cornu article seems to be the most thorough and clear way to distinguish differences regardless of age. It also allows us to be honest about how to educate ourselves about the internet, without automatically sorting people into a strict category based on age. We can always learn to be more digitally engaged, and we can always work backwards to disengage if needed.

I found the Mesch article to be sort of abstract and overly positive about the social benefits of the internet, but one point that I hadn’t considered was the increasing use of multitasking by all of us as a result of it. As I’m writing this, I can also listen to an audiobook or a podcast, or talk on the phone with someone. I can listen to my lectures while checking email. It creates a space where multiple tasks can be completed in the same time period, freeing up more time for other activities down the road. I was surprised by the overwhelming majority of people multitasking on the computer, but really shouldn’t have been. We don’t really think about all of the things we are doing at the same time when we are on our laptops, but it is a unique opportunity to save time for other things. Of course, our ability to multitask goes hand in hand with our general literacy online and whether we choose to exist in this space primarily or just visit from time to time. The new paradigm for visitors/residents reframes this in a way where we are all capable of doing so.

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Senior at the University of Minnesota, Studying Political Science

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Carter Dosmann

Senior at the University of Minnesota, Studying Political Science