I spend a lot of my time on a computer as it is the primary tool for my work. Most people I know also dedicate a lot of their day to a computer at work or home. A computer, especially one with an internet connection is necessary for any office these days. This holds true whether one is working for a small non-profit organization or for a major company. Location does not matter much as computers on the net are a must if you work in an office in downtown Toronto or in First Nation administration on a remote Native community.
The unfortunate thing about this technological reality is that we seldom get the chance to connect with people. In the past, it was normal to have regular contact with bank tellers, either in person or over the phone. Any type of banking transaction was a big deal that involved several steps and the helping hand of someone who worked at the bank. When we wanted to travel, we visited a travel agent and if we couldn’t see them in person we spent an hour or two on the phone to discuss our options.
When I started high school in the late 1980s, I was more familiar with the old way of doing things. I had just recently become a teenager and I had arrived from my isolated home community of Attawapiskat to attend high school in Timmins, Ontario. The outside world was a new place for me and I was learning something new every day. All the adults in my life taught me that the best way to get anything done was by communicating directly with people in businesses, agencies or organizations. Banking was a big deal and I remember suffering through the process of getting my first bank account. I felt like I was signing up for something extremely official and important. This experience made me feel like I had partly made it in the outside world. I had a bank account.
I had a lot of difficulty in this new world. In order to survive and get anything done I had to communicate one-on-one with people. English is my second language and at the point when I started high school, I was communicating mostly in Cree. Merely ordering a meal in a restaurant or asking for directions was a big deal. It took me many years before I became comfortable and fluent in English to the point where I had confidence to approach anyone.
Now in this modern computer-aged, technological world, I find I have to go through another learning process that deals with how to get things done. After, finally feeling comfortable speaking to people in all types of settings I then had learn how to function at a high level on the computer internet world. I seldom meet with bank tellers anymore as I do all my banking online. Whenever I want to go travelling it is easier for me to do all the research, find the flight package I want and book it myself online with a credit card.
Everything I do that relates to my work in writing involves corresponding with people by email messages and sending and receiving documents and photos online. I rarely deal with real people in person or on the phone. They all seem to be hidden behind typed or automated responses through electronic mail, website interfaces, online transaction forms or support-service chat programs. Sometimes it feels unreal and that I might be just living in a computer program where no one actually exists.
The good news is that I am getting along in this modern computer-internet world. I am computer literate and I manage to stay on top of most things to get my work done. I feel sympathy for others who can not access this new world with ease. There is a whole segment of the population out there that is finding this change in communication very difficult. Many people are still at the stage of wanting to communicate in person or over the phone. Generally, this applies to older people who have spent most of their lives trusting others to help them figure out their banking, their travel plans and business or employment interests.
I have many older friends who are finding it difficult to change their ways. They often can’t find people to help them with all types of simple transactions. It is more and more difficult to find a real person to talk to when it comes to government departments and agencies, banks and corporations. Many older people have a hard time trusting the new internet with their banking needs. In regards to older Native people this computer-internet age is alarming. Many First Nation Elders are not comfortable with English as they still predominantly speak their Native language. Expecting Elders to learn how to operate computers and function on the internet is not practical.
Many Elders I talk to offer some wisdom in their view of this advancing computer-internet world. They remind me not to stray to far from the skills I learned as a child and young man in surviving on the land. Most of them think that at some point all this technology might not survive if we, as human beings, cannot find a way to respect Mother Earth and each other. So, with that in mind I am always eager to learn something new as the next technological wonder comes along but I won’t let myself forget how to snare a rabbit, bring down a goose, build a blind, survive in the freezing cold and find my way in the wilderness.