Last night, I called my niece up to wish her good luck on her auditions for the school musical. A sophomore in high school, she’s a bright and talented young person, and she has that gift that children do of explaining things as simply as possible. When I asked her how it is that she texts with her friends, she explained it to me in just a couple of sentences.
– You use a phone number to reach someone (I didn’t know that!)
– Lots of people don’t use punctuation
– My Nexus One is apparently cool when it comes to texting because I can just automatically reply to people who text me, and some phones make you bring up a different screen to reply
In short order, I had sent her a message and she had sent one back to me. Then, I sent one to my other niece at college and she messaged me back. We sent one another text kisses, bridging long distances with remarkable ease. This was all so much simpler than trying to read a manual, look up instructions online or figure this out all by myself.
Do you remember this about childhood? A few words, a gesture, a quick demo from a friend would instantly incorporate you into a hobby, a habit, a fashion? The ability to mimic one’s companions begins in infancy; for good or ill, it’s one of our defining human characteristics. When it comes to technology, young people pick things up so quickly and learning from them is a treat. My nieces gave me a gift last night – the gift of easy entrance into a world they know so well. I felt very proud of them…and a little proud of myself for still being quick enough on the pickup.
My nephews, now, they are not into cell phones, they tell me. They love music, iPods and iPod Touches. I was fascinated to learn that my 16-year-old nephew is a podcast fanatic. He listens to books being read aloud and to technology news. I hadn’t been hearing much about podcasts lately, but this was confirmation to me that they are still very big. His younger brother delights in having his favorite tunes with him at all times – both popular and classical pieces.
In another branch of the family, two more little nieces tote their cell phones to school so that Mom can be in touch with them in case of emergency while she is away at work all day. One brilliant niece, age 14, is using her computer to write her first novel and the littlest one loves playing educational video games.
The territory my nieces and nephews walk in is not foreign to me. I am young enough to have grown up with the development of video game systems and PCs. My daddy was a programmer and computers were part of the furniture of home. I took to the joystick and the keyboard without even having to think about it. I remember that, and I see this same innate ability in all the young people in my family. For a few minutes last night, texting with my niece, I felt like the kid-me again. I’m grateful to her for that, for the quick and fun lesson she gave me and for making me welcome in a corner of the technological world that is new ground for me.