White man sitting at computer

Before the internet, the information highway was a two lane road. If you didn’t have a chance to learn anything new in the last 15-20 years, where you even begin? If you went back just a few decades the world as we saw it moved at a much slower pace.

Even though Windows 95, with the first “mouse” came into some people’s lives in the 1990’s, the vast majority of homes did not have a computer. It was amazing! You could control a curser on the screen by moving this thing in your hand that was laying on the desk and click it to do things! Wow!! But there was no internet speed. You connected through phone lines. You had to “dial up” to surf the net, what little there was. The fun stuff hadn’t been created yet. Even when you could get online it was slow and you probably had a 486 computer and waited forever for a simple picture to slowly come in.

People knew NOTHING about what was going on in the next town let alone the world. We got a little bit on the evening news but young people weren’t watching it, we were hanging out at people’s houses, not hanging out in an app. Our lives were small. We called people on phones that plugged into a phone jack in the wall. The youth were clueless about politics. It wasn’t just the youth, either. People in general were clueless unless they heard about it on TV or read a newspaper. And it wasn’t that long ago. Everything changed so fast.

It took a long time before there was ONE computer in a home. Look what we have now. Too much information and no idea if what we learn is true or “Fake News” or if it comes from a person, a bot or another country that wants to do us harm. What can we believe? This technology keeps outpacing itself. Faster and faster everything changed as our computers learned to take over our lives.

Imagine for a moment that everything you learned because of using a computer – all of that knowledge – disappeared out of your brain. Vanished. Everything you learned, because you were connected to that technology was deleted. All of the people, your “friends” you’ve never actually met who “care” about you on Facebook, Instagram or other social media ceased to exist. The phrase “social media” would mean nothing. No shopping online. The thought of watching a movie on a computer would have you scratching your head. What would you be thinking RIGHT NOW if you had no chance to learn the things you have learned? Scary, right? You’d go into a panic if you couldn’t reach for your phone.

There is a reason I’m asking these questions. Jamie was locked up for 13.5 years. A couple months before he turned 22. He was locked up for 4 years before that from age 17-21. The year 2000. People weren’t spending their time with their face buried in a device. There were cell phones – to make phone calls. There were no screens on them and they weren’t connected to the internet.

So during all these changes, as a society we learned together and became connected to the world. We communicated with people all over the world. We learned how to access information through email, browsers, Google and a wide variety of apps. It’s easy for us to tap into this. We assume other people can tap into it, too.

In the past month I’ve had to stop myself when trying to explain to Jamie how to quickly find things on the internet through his phone. Simple concepts IF you know them. It’s like speaking Greek if you don’t.

“Type (such and such) in the browser.” I’d say.
“What’s a browser??” hmm

“Tap the Google app and do a search on…”
“How do you do that?”

“Did you get the links I sent to you in a message?”
“I don’t know how to find them. I saw them come up but I don’t know how to find them again.”

There many of these type questions. Can you imagine that the first computer you used is a tiny phone? You can’t learn how to use a computer on a phone. You can’t automatically know how it works. He couldn’t get links to work. I think now he wasn’t waiting long enough. How about explaining how to put phone numbers into contact information and calling people by tapping on their names instead of using their phone number? We didn’t get that far. It is hard to help him while talking to him at the same time.

I wanted him to read his blog – this one, but he said it wouldn’t come up. The same thing about hearing the music I recorded for the book. He said it wouldn’t play. That didn’t sound right. His brother gave him the wifi password. It turns out his phone is slow, or the Verizon connection using the free government phone with 200 free minutes is slow. I need to be able to connect with him online, video chat, go over things about the book. But I realized I first have to go back to the beginning. He has a lot to learn. He needs something bigger than a phone. I want to look for a used or refurbished laptop. Something that uses files so I can send him chapter files.

Jamie may be 36, but in many ways he isn’t. He doesn’t have the life experience of someone 36 and he needs to catch up with himself. There are many who have been locked up for longer than he was. There are people getting out of prison in their 60’s who have been locked up since their teens. Are they ever able to fill in the blanks?

He got through the prison years and his head is screwed on. I have to be confident he will be okay. But gaining wisdom through experience takes time and it often comes from your mistakes . Learning how to judge people and be wary of those around you – how do you teach that? It is a different America now and it tends to not be very friendly, especially in Southern States.

Jamie is in a completely different chapter of his life now – re-entry into society. The adjustment will take awhile, for both of us.

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