By Tak Sato
The mechanic said “you need a new cat,” but I had no clue what he was talking about; the only cat I knew was the furry kind.
Still, I nodded back knowingly and let him take care of it. Two decades and a couple cars later, I know better than to pretend that I understand.
As technology continues to permeate through our daily lives, digital literacy seems to be the invisible wall separating digital natives and digital immigrants such as those of us 50 and older who had to learn to use technology. Millennials and their younger counterparts were raised on technology. They don’t know any other way to get through the day.
Figure It Out
If going through life is often about embracing change, why does embracing technology seem to intimidate many of us? One challenge is figuring out technology terms. The jargon is cryptic and confusing for many digital immigrants, and the digital world marketing machine sure loves to spawn jargon.
Instead of throwing up our hands, why don’t we dispel some jargon to lower our intimidation barriers? Technology should be no different than other changes that we have masterfully embraced throughout our lives.
When your nephew says he can easily show you his vacation pictures on his smartphone because he saved them in “the cloud,” he means he saved them in the internet. Purveyors of internet-based services probably thought referring to the internet as “the cloud” will sell more services/widgets because it sounds warmer and more romantic than internet — except they may have forgotten to mention that they are synonymous.
I think the practice to prefix an object with the word “smart” is overdone. Smart TV is just a flat screen TV with computer-like circuitry embedded so you can “stream” (see the list of definitions) additional programming from the internet.
Marketers could have mentioned that you can make a perfectly working, flat screen pre-smart TV “smarter” for fraction of the cost, but that doesn’t sell new TV sets, does it? I call the latter option “making a dumb TV smarter” — LOL (again, see the list of definitions). Jargon blitz ensued with smartphone, smart TV, smart home, smart car, smart vacuum — it doesn’t seem to let up. Maybe smart columnist is next?
Resist becoming intimidated by jargon and overused tech terms that keep you from the wonderful benefits that come from digital literacy. Remembering that the digital world mimics the real world can help you decipher jargon. One example is social media, which has terms that mimic real-world relationships.
Don’t be like my younger self, when I didn’t know what “cat” meant but pretended to. If I asked for clarification, I probably would have saved money by replacing the O2 sensor at fraction of the cost of a new catalytic converter system.
Stop faking it. Here’s what these terms really mean.
To receive program transmission over the internet instead of over-the-air, cable or satellite.
Collection of frequently asked questions.
Synchronizing information so two or more of your devices (a laptop and cellphone, for example) show the same information. Email is usually synced among devices.
Unwanted email messages similar to junk mail sent through the post office.
High Definition HD (HD or 720P), Full High Definition HD (Full HD or 1080P), Ultra High Definition (Ultra HD or UHD or 4K)
Specifications describing TV picture detail. The higher the number, the more detailed the picture is. Programming at UHD is scarce.
Laugh Out Loud. Initially used in text messages and now a part of our urban lexicon. Acronyms such as this add context to a written message.
A small digital image or icon that can express the context or mood of a message.
A network of online communities. Examples are Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest.
A digital audio file that you can listen to through your cellphone or computer. Many podcasts are similar to old-time radio shows with true-crime stories, interview shows and news.
A wireless signal to connect to the cloud. If you have internet coming into your house, most providers will let you connect devices wirelessly. Public Wi-Fi is when establishments such as libraries, restaurants, etc., let you connect to get on to the internet.
Tak Sato is a founder of the Cleveland-area nonprofit Center for Aging in the Digital World (empowerseniors.org) that teaches digital literacy to people 50+ through the free Discover Digital Literacy! program. He lives happily in both the real and digital worlds with his wife and their son — a future NBA player.