Welcome to the age of technology. I can still remember when my family didn’t own a personal computer, yet now my mom, dad and sisters all own their own laptops. That’s just the beginning.
Now, I have a smart phone with more processing power than our first desktop computer. I can receive email and news from my phone 24 hours a day. The new trend in technology is tablet computers that are portable and powerful.
Social media such as Twitter and Facebook allow us to communicate with thousands of people in a matter of seconds. Despite all of this technology, there are still people who can’t — or don’t —take advantage of all these valuable tools.
I understand that in this era of scare-tactic media, politics and advertising, people have concerns about how much information about them is available to the public. The most important thing to understand is you are the gatekeeper to all information about you.
If you don’t want friends, family, professors or employers to know something about you, then don’t put it on Facebook and don’t tweet about it, but don’t use it as an excuse to not use the technology.
Celebrities provide a shining example of how to use and misuse the ability to speak to millions of people directly and instantly. Some celebrities use social media as a way to directly connect with fans, build excitement for upcoming public appearances, champion political issues and nearly anything else they want to do. It’s a great way for people to instantly distribute information with almost no cost.
Sometimes a celebrity will say something that results in a negative backlash. If you think about what you’re writing before you hit the send button, you can avoid saying something foolish. The potential benefits still
outweigh the negatives.
Being technology savvy is an asset in school and in your future career. You want to be the person who knows how to set up a Facebook page for your employer, use Twitter to communicate inside and outside the company, build and operate blogs and websites and teach others how to do the same. Part of your college education should be to teach yourself the proper way to use these to your advantage.
I’m not saying that everyone needs to run out and buy a smart phone, Tweet prolifically and get lost in the world of Facebook games, but when I see someone who doesn’t know how to use Twitter or set up a blog and refuses to use Facebook, I think of them as someone who isn’t with the times.
When you get your college degree and apply for a job, your employers will see what is on your Facebook. Not having Facebook tells them just as much as having pictures of yourself at that house party on Facebook. Neither is a good idea.
Even more basic than social media is the ability to use email correctly. When you email someone professionally, make sure you use correct grammar, punctuation, spelling and tone. Emailing your mom is different than emailing a professor or an employer, so make sure you treat each with an appropriate level of respect.
Most importantly, if you get an email from a student you are working with in a class, a member of an organization you work with, a professor or an employer, respond to them as quickly as possible. If you don’t have time to respond to their email fully, at least email them and tell them so. No response is the most frustrating response of all.
In the short span of my life I have seen computers go from bulky, black-and-green screened desktops to sleek, touch-screen devices that fit in your pocket. Technology will continue to develop over our lifetimes and even more innovative ways to communicate will be created. It is up to all of us to make sure we learn to use new technology and not get left behind.
Reach columnist John Hines at John.Hines@usd.edu