Saturday, November 26, 2011

Digital Thanksgiving and Holidays with Family

We are wrapping up a Thanksgiving weekend with three generations of family. Our teens are not portable game device folks, though my son's borrowed Nintendo DS gets snuck under the table. I am fascinated, however, by the little ways where the digital divide affects the holidays. We have suffered for a few years now about the role of communal television in family gatherings. The older relatives don't have a digital video recorder, nor have it in their lives. They also don't have Netflix hooked to their TVs, which perplexes our teens. The kids and I check the weather on our smartphones and iPads, which perplexes our relatives in their 60s and 70s. They spend the morning with the newspaper, and wonder why the kids only look ot the funnies. The older relatives are less concerned about the kids getting texts from their friends during all waking hours. The kids, on the other hand, have gotten more subtle about it and have been gracious. Information sources seem to be the most interesting change. Our older relatives look to the TV and newspaper for information to make social decisions, like Black Friday sales, information on movies and TV, and restaurant ideas. My husband's aunt was intrigued to look at her own community on Yelp, seeing how other people review the restaurants in her area. She has had a computer in her den for years, went to broadband last year, and mostly leaves it off. The "always on" window into the outside world for her is "always off," or almost always so. The shift to having the Internet as an available window for information for decisions has never permeated her life. What has called our attention to the digital divide is the consideration of "normal" and information to make decisions. My family, much more digitally connected, consults digital sources for alternatives for many decisions. My older in-laws grab a small piece of data from the newspaper and make life decisions and daily activity decisions based on that smaller alternative set. How has technology affected "normal" holiday gatherings in your family?

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