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Do computers intimidate you? Are you losing touch with your grandchildren as they text back and forth and you feel out of the loop somehow? Are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp and Flickr just a bunch of names that leave you bewildered? Well, cheer up and join 88-year old retired artist and writer John Fisher, whose light-hearted look at the joy of texting was originally published in the Globe & Mail’s “Facts & Arguments” page on July 28, 2013, and reproduced here with his permission.



As a senior, I recently joined the 21st century and acquired an iPhone5 and ditched my landline. For days it was like going naked in public wearing a very short under-vest, but I also discovered the joy of texting. Don't misunderstand me, I was no techno-peasant. I kind of grew up on a Mac, having spent most of my life as a graphic artist and writer although my paste-up and assembly skills are long obsolete. Mention Letraset to anyone under the age of 50 and you'll get a blank look as though it's an app they never heard of.

My biggest surprise was the reaction of my peers. I still move in artistic circles. I teach art, belong to an art club, and a small writer's group where we meet and often do ten-minute challenges written with a pen and cursive writing (look it up!) People I normally thought of as intelligent aware seniors treat me as though I've somehow broken some unspoken covenant. Resistance to change is inherent in organizations and personal habits, but many seniors seem to have an irrational fear of the pace of change and go into deep denial. They are not alone.

The baby boom generation that was going to change the world isn’t at all happy about it changing for them and some display remarkably Luddite attitudes. Their children get it though and have embraced the future, often leaving their parents behind as the landline phone becomes a thing of the past. They understand the joy of texting but it’s hard to explain to non-believers. I imagine the invention of the telephone was received with much the same skepticism: What would I want to talk about? Why on earth would I waste money on such an expensive device when I can walk over and see them? The telephone, telegraph, radio, television, all inventions of the devil it seems. Hand written letters, envelopes, stamps and the post office all relics of a nostalgic time passed when long distance calls cost a week’s wages and pen pals exchanged texts with a 30-day wait for a reply.

My iPhone is an extension of me these days. It goes everywhere: the bathroom, the bedroom, the kitchen, restaurants, and with my blue-tooth equipped car I never miss a call or lose continuity with those I care about and who care about me. No, I never talk or text while driving and always pull over for such calls or let it go to voicemail. As a widower life can often be very lonely, but with my iPhone I can stay in touch without marathon monthly letters or emails requiring you to scroll down endlessly. No need to send those irritating annual Christmas letters where you try to condense a year’s events into one page that nobody wants or reads.

I can text my brother in Spain on a daily basis, see images of where he is and what he’s doing, and look at a GPS location via a satellite or map. Complete familiarity with the new connectivity involves Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and other social media, which means I’m in touch with my children and grandchildren in Australia, and although their language sometimes leaves a lot to be desired, I know what they’re doing on a week to week basis. I can also leave comments on their choice of words. They get it and they know their Granddad gets it. My grandchildren’s generation rarely phone or even use email to communicate, so unless we grasp the fact that Skype is not some upmarket organic salad dressing and understand the joy of texting we will lose our ability to talk to them once puberty kicks in and they start on their own independent journey through life.

Link up with them and they will send texts with photographs and videos through the WhatsApp application, all with an easy “view” mode and GPS locations. You will share in their day-to-day adventures.

The camera that comes with my iPhone has awesome resolution and is always at hand. I can ask for advice on shopping for shirts from a female friend, photograph the collection, send a text with images and instantly get back an opinion. The very young store clerk gets it. The new way to shop it seems.

To me, a new convert, this all seems like magic and I simply don’t understand the reluctance to embrace it. This little device is just the forerunner of even more advances in communications technology that will break down the barriers of time and space. Voice recognition software and more intuitive controls will enable users to master the joy of texting much easier. Those of us who don’t get IT will soon represent a huge segment of the population who will drift out of the mainstream and be unable to communicate with the next generation. The longer they resist the learning curve the harder it will be to catch up. By the time they are ready for assisted living in some ghetto for the elderly, the gap may be unbridgeable and have tragic psychological consequences.

Grandson
Thanks Granddad. World War2 pix were brilliant.

                        Granddad
                        You’re welcome. How’s the first year of university?

Grandson
OK I guess. Mom keeps phoning. Weird.

                        Granddad
                        Some adults are slow learners! LOL

 

Meet John Fisher

Meet John Fisher and see his paintings >
 
   
 
     
     
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