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The Fractious World of Digital Natives, Immigrants and Aliens

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For those who remember, the Age of Aquarius was a lot about peace and love. But it also splintered us into sharp sticks of rebellion and conformity, long and short hair, youth and everybody over thirty. It was a most fractious time.

Now we live in the digital age, also a most wondrous time, for sure. But let's be honest, it has also fragmented our already tribal society into yet another counter faction. And that's not so good. We're talking about digital natives, digital immigrants and, alas, digital aliens.

Digital immigrants are all those who were adults when personal computers kicked into high gear in the late 1990s. Learning to navigate this new world was bewildering for them. Apple's annoying spinning orb and Microsoft's blue blunder-line made digital immigrants -- you'll pardon the expression -- all a-twitter. Many of them are geezer-class which means they can't remember all the passwords required to 'surf the Internets.' But they struggle and learn because they have to.

Digital natives are the kids who grew up with computers already in the house. Keyboards were their in-house playgrounds of trial-and-error discovery. These are the kids -- usually the nieces or nephews, kids, or kids of friends -- who digital immigrants call when the document they've been working on for two hours disappears. Digital natives know what a POP3 account is and what port to use for an incoming and outgoing server -- which makes them THE translaters for their bewildered immigrant parents.

This is a significant role-pivot akin to the vast Europe-to-America and Latin-to-North America migration when non-English-speaking parents relied on their American-born kids to guide them through their bewlidering new world. When youngsters simply know more than their parents it puts them in the very unfamiliar role of authority figure in the family -- but that's a story for another time.

Then there are the digital aliens, the mostly older, pre-DOS folk who think bandwidth is the size of the orchestra and a hard drive is the I-5 through the Grape Vine when it's icy. They're relegated to disdain or insignificance.

Digital natives bond over JPEGS and GIFs.

Digital immigrants have their support groups like "Girl Geek Dinners" a social support system for women within the digital world.

Digital aliens? They have nothing. They're outsiders. They're shunned as Luddites and left to drift on the ice til it melts.

So, why should we be concerned about this latest societal fragmentation as a consequence of this most wondrous digital age? For that, we turn to the decidedly pre-digital, pre-Aquarius 20th century philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer, John Dewey. New technology, he warned, carries with it the power to divide and atomize society with individual constituencies increasingly replacing a shared sense of community.

Kind of resonates, doesn't it? And that's not so good.