This world. This place. This life.

Why we need bridges


As an Alaskan, I’ve been reluctant to talk about bridges.  Conversation tends to turn toward a certain project linking Gravina Island with the town of Ketchikan, and that leads to, well, nowhere that I want to talk about.

But I’ve been thinking about digital immigrants, and how we’re an important bridge to the digital native future.

A few days ago I asked a digital native friend in the UU Social Media Lab, “Does learning new technology hurt your brain like it hurts mine?”  He replied, “No.”  And grinned.

I’m pretty comfortable online.  I blog.  I use Google Reader to read other blogs.  I live on Facebook (sometimes too much).  I have a Twitter account, but I’m not a convert yet.  I’ve just started to explore Tumblr.

But still, I’m not a native.  My mind does hurt when I start teaching myself something new.  The learning curve is steep.  I have to take a deep breath, and give myself frequent pep talks.

Here’s the thing, though.  People at AUUF think I know what I’m doing.  Question about Facebook?  Ask Heather.  How to start a blog?  Ask Heather.  What should we do with our website?  Ask Heather.

It’s kind of bizarre, actually.  My first encounter with computers was in the DOS era, where people who were good with computers were math geeks.  If you’d told me then that two decades later people would think I was good at computers, I wouldn’t have believed you.  I was a word person, not a math/computer person.

So we come back to bridges, and why we need them.  Between the digital natives, and the digital aliens and tourists, are the digital immigrants. People who know how to learn new technology, even though it’s hard.  We learn from the digital natives, and translate for the aliens and tourists.

There are a heck of a lot of digital aliens and tourists in religious communities these days.  If the congregations we care about are going to survive to welcome unaffiliated digital natives, digital immigrants will need to recognize their role, step up, and fill it.

The aliens and tourists who ask for our help will say, “This is hard.  It’s confusing.  I feel like my brain’s going to explode.”  And we’ll reply, “Yes, I know.  But if you work through that, there’s good stuff on the other side.”

2 thoughts on “Why we need bridges

  1. In an odd twist – others outside my congregation seem to be asking me how to best use social media stuff via the social media lab, but folks in my congregation…I’ve been asked by one person how to become a fan of the facebook page and that’s it. Inside our congregation, I don’t think a lot of people know I do the social media stuff for our congregation or even have a blog. (Ahh, the joys of a large congregation and slipping under the radar :D)

    I definitely identify as a digital native – we got internet in 92 when I was 10. Absolutely folks in that Gen Xish generation above me (I’m a Millenial) are an important bridge from older folks in the congregation who don’t seem to get it naturally or like to play with new websites to see what the possibilities are.

    I’m on that cusp of digital native/immigrant, so I can see why folks have trouble. But folks younger than me, like some of the youth in my HS youth group, would have no idea how to explain in a step-by-step process how to report something from tumblr on their facebook – it’d be like explaining how to blink.

    • Switching metaphors–it’s like a chain, every link important. You’re teaching me things every day in the lab(s)–thank you.

      I’m dead-center in GenX–born 1971, and the usual bracket dates are 1961-1981. I love learning about the gifts of your generation, and wondering about the generations after yours. Love the line about “it’d be like explaining how to blink.” Might have to steal that for usage elsewhere.

      My first year in college (1989), all the incoming students received laptops. It was a big deal. Cutting edge. Except the sucker was so heavy I never took it anywhere. I did learn about email then, and the internet was just emerging. Some of my classmates really liked chat rooms; I wasn’t that into it. Other fish to fry, like my first steps away from fundamentalism.

      Just today my partner’s boss referred to email as “new technology.” Depends on your perspective, I suppose.

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