This digital immigrant loves technology

By Francis Murphy “Tony” Draper,
CEO and Publisher of AFRO

Let me start by saying I love technology. Some might even call me an early adopter, since my Gen X kids and Gen Z grandparents have told me I’m tech savvy. But, make no mistake, I’m a digital immigrant (more on that later) who readily ditched her Blackberry for her first iPhone nearly 15 years ago. Every year since then, I’ve upgraded to the latest version of Steve Jobs’ groundbreaking invention (though I think the iPhone 14 is overrated).

The latest MacBook pros, iPads and Apple Watches round out my hardware arsenal. Now, I’m not saying this to impress you, just to underscore that as a digital immigrant, I love technology and its potential. No, I don’t fully understand how to use every feature, but I look forward to learning something new every day — and there’s still a lot to learn. Technology is changing rapidly, and we’ve come a long way since our founding in 1996 at Six Degrees. Friendster and Myspace are only vague memories.

Unfortunately, baby boomers (like myself) often have a bad reputation when it comes to technology. Some people believe that if you’re over a certain age, you face serious technical challenges, or you’re not interested in technology. There are jokes about paper boarding passes or becoming like your parents (like it’s some kind of curse) or because you’re older you can’t use technology to do the simplest of tasks. There are also stereotypical assumptions, bordering on ageism, that many older people don’t use social media, or that even if they do use Facebook (Meta), it’s only because it’s a platform for “old people.”

Here’s the fact: According to the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of Americans over the age of 65 use the Internet, up from 14 percent in 2000. media or smartphones, but those who adopt these technologies use them heavily and learn new skills.

Seniors are the fastest growing online demographic, though some still hold on. In many cases, the real barrier to entry is not technology—it’s personal preference. After all, according to, the baby boomers (born 1946-1964) and the silent generation (1928-1945) created many breakthrough technologies, including DNA fingerprinting, Jarvik 7, Apple II, WWW, free Delivery, Universal Serial Bus ports (USB), Ethernet, nanoscale motors, synthetic skin and flexible foot prosthetics, and more.

The expansion of radio, television, mobile phones, personal computers, and the Internet was pioneered by baby boomers. And let’s not forget African-American tech superstars like Dr. Mark Dean, who co-invented the color IBM PC monitor and the gigahertz chip, and Dr. James E. West, who co-invented more than 90 percent of the microphones used in today’s cell phones and cameras. Then there was Janet E. Bashen, the first black woman to receive a patent for a web-based software solution. And, there’s more!

People use technology, including social media, for a variety of reasons, and baby boomers are no exception. Social media helps people stay connected, provides an easy way to share information, is available 24/7, is relatively easy to use, allows for quick communication, helps build relationships, makes the world seem much smaller than it really is, and opens up new lines or communications.

Many of us, especially the youngest among us, cannot imagine a day without social media. Everywhere we go—restaurants, airports, street corners, ball games, entertainment venues—people are on their phones all the time. In fact, our devices are often the first thing we reach for in the morning and the last thing we touch before our heads hit the pillow. We even text the people we are in the same room with. However, studies have shown that chronic social media users are more likely to experience mental health problems, including symptoms of anxiety and depression. Then there’s cyberbullying, cancel culture, fear of missing out, and social media addiction, not to mention the inability to form meaningful relationships without the devices at hand.

Digital natives (millennials and Gen Z) grew up—to varying degrees—without knowing what it was like to not have a phone or other device at their fingertips. They understand technology in a way that baby boomers, the digital immigrants — those who have learned how to use a computer at some point in their adult lives — rarely do.

I believe that digital immigrants have the best of both worlds. While they rely on and appreciate social media and other technologies, many still prefer face-to-face conversations and can put down their phones or turn them off without feeling like they missed out on the latest post, last like, latest update, latest photo , latest video, latest TikTok, latest Clubhouse (or is the party over?).

For the most part, digital immigrants are used to building relationships by looking each other straight in the eye and having frank, honest conversations. They know how to interact in digital and non-digital spaces. They tend to judge people as pastors. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Say “by the content of their character”. They’re also nice (really nice) if someone doesn’t like them or doesn’t follow them.

At AFRO, we have a healthy mix of digital natives and digital immigrants. Our readers also span multiple generations. So the entire AFRO team – advertising, archival, digital, editorial, executive, finance and production – produced this special edition focusing on many aspects of technology.

You may see an employee witness a dramatic change in the way they work African American pass. In another post, read how technology is advancing learning in Baltimore Public Schools. If you haven’t heard of Hack the Hood, read on. If you need employment, learn how the Metaverse expands possibilities.

There is something for everyone with a keen nose for technology.

Portions of this editorial were originally published in the Africa edition of We’re Still Here on November 17, 2021.

Help us continue to tell our story and join the AFRO family as a member – subscribers are now members!join in Gentlemen!

Source link