It's only recently that I started using a tablet device, namely an Apple iPad. Did I hear gasps of disbelief? Certainly for someone who talks and writes about technology news, I should be at the "cutting edge", shouldn't I? Let me explain.
As a fifty-something, I'm still excited by new gadgets and high-tech devices such as the latest smartphones and tablets, but to own one is a decision that I won't make easily anymore. I have one main reason for not getting one more such device: I've tasted first-hand how my own iPhone has allowed me to consume endless hours of digital information, so much so that this newly acquired habit of staring at it endlessly had surreptitiously robbed me of precious time with family and friends, not to mention the loss of etiquette at dinner tables and lunch meets.
Luckily for me, that realisation of my rapidly deteriorating display of good manners came to me early, assisted by sharp glances from my significant other who has far greater ability to resist that urge to use her own iPhone while at a social gathering. You can imagine the consequence if I haven't "repented." It's perfectly acceptable doing so while on the train or bus, but not when there are people who want to communicate with you face to face. In the eyes of my elders, that's not acceptable at all — what more as a role-modelling "uncle" to kids and the younger generation.
So where is all this leading to? In contrast, young people have no qualms not talking at all through their mouths all the time — they're comfortable just messaging (or "What's-apping", my niece told me), even when seated among good friends. They read with their smart devices, get entertained watching video, listening to music or playing games on them, and share intimate information with close friends too that way. Such non-verbal communication seems adequate to them, although disturbingly antisocial on the surface.
I remember talking to Vikram Nehru, former chief economist with The World Bank, about the generation Y and digital millennials who rarely indulge in face-to-face verbal communication. Would that be a concern, I asked. His reply was optimistic: it's the new way to establish links with new friends in ways we could never have found, simply because we never had these digital tools to do so. And the benefits would be tremendous, he said.
How so? In fact, they're communicating with many more friends than before. Apps like FaceBook, Pinterest, Google Plus, Tweeter, and LinkedIn enable them to be in touch with not just warm bodies physically around them, but also people halfway across the world via tweets and FaceBook updates.
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