Immigrant vs. Native

by Abby Lambert


My parents are in their mid-eighties. When they want visit their great-grandchildren it’s my pleasure to drive them. My dad, who is hard of hearing, sits next to me in the front passenger seat. My mom, who can hear just fine, sits in the back. During a recent drive to Eugene, Oregon, we made better time than expected thanks to light traffic on the freeway. As we approached the exit to my daughter’s part of town I realized we were thirty minutes early. Knowing my daughter would still be busy preparing for our arrival, I decided to give her a heads up. I asked my dad if he would text my daughter and inform her of our impending arrival. Before I could hand over my smart phone, my dad reached in his pocket and whipped out a flip phone. Instead of texting, he called my daughter and told her we were almost there.  “I don’t have time to text,” he explained. “The buttons are too small and we’d be there by the time I hit send.”

Later that week, I was walking through my neighborhood when the sound of a lawnmower caught my attention. I glanced over and saw a teenage boy with one hand on the mower handle, the other hand holding a smart phone. While vigorously pushing the mower back and forth he had his eyes on the phone, thumb flying over the buttons. I watched him for several minutes. Without a pause in mowing or texting, he proceeded with surprising efficiency. As I walked on, I wondered if the ear phones he wore indicated additional multitasking — watching a video or listening to music, perhaps?

For some reason this contrast between a digital immigrant (my dad) and a digital native (the teen) makes me chuckle. I’m happy to be somewhere in the middle. I’m comfortable being a digital assimilate, sort of like an experienced initiate: always learning but never fully enculturated into the digital world. In other words, you won’t see me mowing the lawn while texting any time soon.

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