Beneath the Digital Rock

01/12/2013 01:59 pm 13:59:22 | Updated Mar 14, 2013

This article was originally published on Nemoscope, a blog about technology from a teen's perspective.

Let's back up to the turn of the millenium. The Internet was there, but seldom used. Computers were big blocky hunks of silicone that blinked pretty lights. And Apple came out with an MP3 player that could hold five whole gigabytes worth of music! The hottest cellphones looked like bricks. And then slowly, the Internet became a utility. Then a necessity. And then the world. Digital music became more common than music on CDs, and records were nearly obsolete by then. And cellphones got smaller and smaller, and then larger and larger until they began to look more like mini-computers.

Caught in a blur by all of this were the folks still using their Olivetti typewriters, replacing ribbons and detangling keys; those sticking by their film cameras, having to readjust every time a film developing shop closed, having their kids buy them a big machine that lit up.

Recently, I tried to contact my friend, Kemma, via a mutual Facebook group. For weeks, I waited for a response, assuming that her lack of response was due to her minimal use of the popular social network. But when I realized Kemma had logged on since I wrote to her, I wondered why she was ignoring me. When we finally did get in touch, I realized our miscommunication was caused by a simple issue: she didn't know how to check her Facebook notifications.

Kemma is part of this group who is living underneath a digital rock. While buying her a computer or a fancy smartphone may be a well-meaning gesture, the device and its mind-blowing processor and endless possibilities will mean nothing to her if she doesn't know that it's capable of such features in the first place.

I was taken aback learning someone had never heard of Facebook notifications. Clicking on the small globe at the top of the screen is the first thing I do when I log on.

Immediately, I enlightened/overwhelmed Kemma with different ways she could use her phone and computer -- ordinary actions that were so obvious to most, it might never have occurred to them they weren't obvious to everyone. In honor of Kemma and all others under the "digital rock," I present five seemingly obvious micro-tutorials.

1. To check your notifications on Facebook, locate the small blue globe located at the top right of your screen. This will show you recent events that may or may not be relevant to you such as comments on pictures and posts, friend suggestions, and event invitations. You may set which notifications you receive right here in Facebook settings.

2. You need not stress your eyes looking through that heavy, possibly outdated dictionary. Instead, access an online dictionary at

3. If you want easy access to a website you visit often, you can bookmark it. A bookmark is a shortcut to a specific link on the Internet. In order to bookmark a page, go to "Bookmarks" and select "Add Bookmark" or "Bookmark this page," depending on your browser. This will make a shortcut to that site appear underneath your address bar. Instead of typing in the URL, you need only click on your bookmark.

4. If you want to take text from somewhere such as a website or document, and use it in another document or an email, there is no need to retype the text. Instead, you can copy it from its source and paste it into your desired destination.

To copy the text, place your mouse at the beginning of the text, click, and hold as you pull your cursor over the text. It should highlight it. Once all you want to copy is highlighted, unclick your mouse. To copy the highlighted text, you may a) Go to "Edit" and select "Copy" b) Right click and select "Copy" c) Hold down Control+C on your keyboard (Command+C if you are using a Mac)

To paste the text, click your cursor into the place you want the text. Make sure this symbol is blinking in the text input: |

Now, you may a) Go to "Edit" and select "Paste" b) Right click and select "Paste" c) Hold down Control+V on your keyboard (Command+V if you are using a Mac)

5. If you want to revisit a website you recently viewed, but cannot recall its URL (or do not wish to retype it), you can easily view your browser history, or a list of websites you have previously visited. To view your history, go to the main menu at the top of the screen -- it should have menus such as "File" and "Edit" and "View." One of these is labeled "History." Simply click on "History" to view your Internet history.

Humankind's shifting ways of functioning can be confusing and daunting to some. For every one person that raises an eyebrow at the blinking screen in front of them, there are at least 10 young ones more than willing to offer a thorough explanation. To the technologically decrepit, I urge you to always ask for help when your own instincts do not prevail. To the competent enlisted to aid them, may you find both patience and luck.