Facebook, Instagram, Google –– what do they have in common? They are all companies that seem to have become household names in this current generation, Generation Z or Millenials, which includes myself. However, this was not the case 30 years ago in my parent’s generation(baby boomers) or 50 years ago in my grandparents generation(silent generation). Consequently, the adoption of technology has created a stratification leading to a generational digital divide within my family.
My parents moved to America when they were both teenagers, and the only technology that was available was the television; thus, they never grew up having information so readily accessible. They experienced the creation and unimaginable rise of the internet. However, since they were immigrants, they did not have a lot of money to spend and never had the chance to obtain access to such luxuries. Contrastingly, by the time I was born, the internet was already common in most households. My generation grew up as digital natives; therefore, it is not surprising that in Jingjing Jiang’s article, http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2018/05/02/millennials-stand-out-for-their-technology-use-but-older-generations-also-embrace-digital-life/, “Millennials stand out for their technology use, but older generations also embrace digital life,” it was found that 97% of Millenials use the internet (para. 11). Although we had a PC, my parents always encouraged us to find enjoyment in physical activity rather than artificial things. However, with the unlimited amount of websites to explore, I rarely left the computer and, consequently, they would always scold me. As a digital native, this created a barrier between myself, a digital native, and my parents, who were digital immigrants and did not understand the interest I had with the internet, especially since they rarely used it. It was difficult to find similar interests and connect with them. This seems to be the reality for many families. In Jim Taylor’s article, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/201303/is-technology-creating-family-divide, “Is Technology Creating a Family Divide?” he discusses a study that found “when the working parent arrived home after work, his or her children were so immersed in technology that the parent was greeted only 30 percent of the time and was totally ignored 50 percent of the time” (para. 2).
This gap extended to my grandparents, but it was even more severe; my parents have now acclimated to the use of the internet. Even though they do not spend as much time on it as I do, they are aware of the benefits. My parents are part of the 83% of baby boomers that have tried to transition from digital immigrants to digital natives by utilizing the internet (para. 11). They see the internet like reading and writing where some excel at learning it and some have more difficulties, but it is something necessary to learn. Regardless, my grandparents continue to live with neither a computer nor a smart-phone. They encompass the definition of a digital immigrant, which is common for their age group, as only 30% of the Silent Generation have a smart-phone, and just 52% of them use the internet 😲 (para. 2). Ironically, they live in Hong Kong, which has one of the fastest internet speeds and where technology plays a large role in everyday life. However, because of how old they are and how costly it can be, especially paired with the high cost of living, they see no use in integrating it into their lifestyle. As a result, I rarely communicate with them and barely have a relationship with them. My maternal grandparents, whom I was very close to, have already passed away, and because they lived 30 minutes away from me, I was able to establish a strong relationship with them.
Contrarily, my paternal grandparents and I hardly know anything about each other, and the only way I can get in touch with them is by calling them, since they only own a landline phone. Nonetheless, this can be very difficult to do because I am a busy college student. There is also a language barrier, as they do not know English, and I am not an expert in Cantonese. It can be very costly to make international calls, thus I refrain from having extended conversations with them. Their inability to access the internet creates a gap in our relationship as we never have face-to-face contact. Sadly, I have only visited them twice in my life 😞, which is aggravating 😡 because I would love to build a relationship with them. Even if they wanted to access the internet, their socioeconomic status hinders them from the ability of doing so. Despite the internet has been beneficial in bringing people together, it has also constructed a generational digital divide, where the generations drift further apart. Although I want to be closer to my paternal grandparents and find common interests with both my parents and grandparents, the internet has created such a strong digital divide between us that it is a difficult task to accomplish.