The other day I attended a seminar led by Jane Friedman on how to self-publish e-books. While there I met a very sweet man, in his late 40s perhaps, who was trying to figure out how to market his novel. As we talked I discovered that he did not even have an email address. He types on a computer, but otherwise he is "afraid" of technology. Of the internet. This was not just anybody. An aspiring writer...afraid of the greatest tool he could possibly have in making his work known! I found myself going into mother-hen mode.
"Listen...without a presence in the internet YOU ARE INVISIBLE. People your age always want flying cars that fold up in a briefcase like the Jetsons."
"My dad wants one. It's a common dream. But that's not going to happen. You know what is better than a flying car? MY PHONE."
I proceeded to demonstrate that my iPhone can do, literally, just about ANYTHING. I was starting to get wound up. "I can take a picture of my child playing, upload it to Facebook, and family and friends from hundreds of miles away can see it! Instantly! 150 years ago you had ONE tintype of your child and you had to pray no one shot the pony before it reached the grandparents!"
I don't need to preach to the choir because chances are if you are reading my blog you aren't afraid of the internet or computers, but when you actually stop to consider what a simple thing like a phone can do these days, the mind BOGGLES. My phone has, among other things, a GPS, software for editing and sharing photos, the ability to play feature length films, a variety of ways to play music, entire books, a plethora of games. I can even write entire blog entries on it, complete with photos. And that is just a fingertip's length of what it's able to do. I feel it's the most exciting piece of technology available to the average Joe that the world has ever seen. It's not a phone. It's a computer that fits in your pocket. And what can a computer give you? THE WORLD!
The man I was talking to drives a bulldozer for a living. A BULLDOZER! Now that is something to be afraid of!
The internet is powerful, but like a bulldozer it's a tool. And you can't be afraid of it. You can't fear the future. You can't hold yourself back from something that will make your life better just because you aren't used to it! If my Grandma can use Facebook then this guy can at least can an email address!
When I was a kid I loved to watch the cartoon Inspector Gadget. I was especially taken with Penny, the niece of the bumbling detective who secretly solved all his crimes with the help of her "Computer Book." Oh man, did I ever want a computer book. I used to staple paper together and draw screens, buttons and levers and make my own "computer book." And when I got my I-Phone, I realized my dream had come true. I owned a pocket sized computer that could connect me to anyone in the world and do darn near whatever I wanted it to. I'm humbled that I live in a time where this could happen!
Now, I'm not saying everyone needs a smartphone, although it does drive me a bit crazy that people who grew up in the atomic age aren't more interested in them because they aren't a flying car. But for heaven's sake, if you want to get anywhere in this world, you MUST have an online presence. You MUST have an email address. You MUST embrace the gifts this world has given you, and not reject them out of fear!
This is an amazing time to be alive.