This past Christmas 2014, my mother received a Kindle Fire from my sister. I learned of this gift on Black Friday when my sister called me and told me what she had done; I was concerned from the start. Mom didn't have internet in her house and had made it clear to me that she did not want the added expense, what proceeded for the next month was my attempting to pave the way for this change by making little comments like "if you had internet..." I arrived at mom's house a few days before Christmas and shared my Facebook account with her through my cell phone connection. Oh I had her scrolling and swiping, watching videos and looking at photos. This whole time knowing what present she was going to receive, and still questioning if this was such a good idea.
Christmas day arrived and I had been able to arrange a "Skype" date with my uncle (my mother's brother) in Michigan. It was a wonderful time in which my entire family basked in the face to face communication we had and marveled at technology. As we opened presents, the Kindle was left until the end." It was truly a tech infused Christmas. The following day mom & I called the phone company and made arrangements to hook up the WiFi, only it was going to be two weeks from then; long after I had returned to Maine. Move ahead in time with me to the last week, Mom got her internet hooked up and fired up the Kindle. After some time of frustration, she was able to access her email account. The next day I signed her up for Facebook (FB) and that night we began to explore.
For the past week we have been spending up to 2 hours each night, moving back and forth in FB, and then checking email. Each day has been an adventure, but progress is being made. Mom's first post was something about loving and hating technology, with the next post being something about "going through the pucker brush" but making progress. She named her Kindle "Kindie" and says her little girl is unruly and likes to take off and fly in the cloud when mom least expects it. This past week has been challenging to assist mom in learning how to navigate the Kindle, when I am 236 miles away and working blind on a device I know nothing about. But we have muddled through and today, just one week after starting lessons, mom is navigating with less support.
Why do I share this? First to say, my sister was right and I was wrong to be concerned. Our mother is so much more resilient and curious than I gave her credit for. I should have known she was ready to venture on her own when she would call and ask me to "Google" something for her, but her protests about having a FB page and internet sounded so real. Secondly, and most important I want to say how inspired I am by my mother's curiosity, motivation, perseverance and intelligence. At a time when most older adults would shy away from technology my mother is heartily embracing the challenge. Her enthusiasm for learning puts me to shame. I have also had to learn how to teach a new way, and this experience has been a benefit to me. As always my mother continues to teach me, while I am teaching her.
During a time when Facebook and email are vilified for being so impersonal and "surface," I see a brighter side. A side where someone can explore and connect; learning to harness new technology. Before we totally shut down our Facebook pages and turn off our smart phones, maybe we can take a moment and see how we can use this technology to a better use than whining. Social media and email are powerful tools, but as C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity (paraphrased) evil never creates it only borrows from good. Let's reclaim the internet and make it a place of exploration and curiosity. Thanks mom for reminding me the fun of connecting on social media and flying in the cloud.