The internet is not something my parents grew up with and it is something certainly new for my grandparents. The internet has always been part of my life and my mother often marvels saying “how do you know that?” I guess I taught myself by freely navigating from one site to the next. I have never been afraid to experiment and push buttons to figure things out. This is something that is a major block for my parent’s generation. There was no internet or even use of computers for word processing when my parents were in University. Computers began to be used after they graduated. My mother remembers horror stories of friends working on theses and pressing the wrong button having their computers crash and their work disappear. To this day my mother is afraid to press the wrong button which affects her confidence navigating the internet.
Looking at this topic using McLuhan’s tetrad, what is enhanced is my relationship with my mother and ultimately her knowledge and use of the internet. I am respected as my mother’s teacher. I have to have patience and respect for her as she is dealing with something new, which can be difficult at times! I have also been able to help my grandparents overcome their fears of using the internet. I found that this fear is not an uncommon problem for seniors. This is discussed in the article, Have no fear: Internet Basics for Seniors.
The internet has been life enhancing making things simpler like banking, travel arrangements, looking up information for services, and entertainment. This is certainly been a help for older adults. Different age groups tend to use the internet differently to enhance their lives as talked about in an article by Marketing Charts Staff.
Another example of Enhancement is that I don’t read newspapers but I do read the news on the internet. As a result, our family discussions are enhanced because I can stay current and I can contribute.
My first experience with socializing on the internet was at the age of nine when I wanted a Facebook account. My mother didn’t know much about it and was concerned with my security. She educated herself and that’s how we got started. In addition to using it for their own socializing, many parents wanted to keep an eye on their kids by also friending them on Facebook. Rather than enhance relationships, this drove teenagers to other social media options. Facebook is no longer seen as ‘cool’. This is shown in a video from Sky News. Now Facebook is becoming more of an older person’s social media format and since parents and businesses have been getting involved after learning about it from their kids, I think my generation has looked for other outlets like Instagram, and tumblr. This is a way that I see the reverse, according to McLuhan’s tetrad, playing out. When Facebook became so popular as a way for people to communicate as was its intention, young people moved away from using it so that they would not be able to be monitored by their parents. Even though communication between the generations can be enhanced, the internet can also lead to the reverse, kids trying to hide things from their parents with their use of social media, as well as the separation of people as we can become isolated and absorbed in our use of the medium.
What is retrieved by the media in terms of the internet and parental units is opportunities for learning together, information sharing, social interacting, and connecting. For example shopping online together can be fun and efficient. It’s a new way of doing an old behaviour.
At the same time things like oral tradition story times, letter writing, and newspaper reading sharing sections, hearing the turning of the pages and getting the ink on our hands are things that are obsolesced by the internet and experiences that are important for families to share. Family time for kids, teens, and their parents to share in meaningful activities can become pushed aside and reduced to everyone being busy on their devices and busy focussing on their individual internet engagements and entertainment. Happily, at my house, games night (not digital) is not obsolete but something we all look forward to.