The digital generation that is not so digital

By Tarcisio Ruoro Mahianyu | Wednesday, Dec 25th 2019 at 10:51
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I do not recall the entity which declared that the so-called ‘new generation,’ the youth and youthful individuals as ‘digital’ individuals. It must have been an act of parliament or a by-law of some sort since everyone is terming the aforementioned individuals as up-to-date in technology and anything that exhibits technological advancement. Suddenly being ‘digital’ is all the swagger one needs. 

Somehow, someway, the youth are expected and are supposed to know everything that is electronically progressive. I hear parents referring to computers and remote controls that have malfunctioned to their sons and daughters who are in college or high school. “Ni yeye huwa anajua kutengeneza hii remote…..” the parents confidently say. 

I still do not remember which android app it is that these kids are born with that is magically supposed to ‘Bluetooth-hotspot’ or ‘wi-fi-hotspot’ them to electronic and electrical stuff. Suddenly, they know everything and anything that is technological and hence the term’ digital generation’. In the same thread, I have seen parents giving their kids their mobile phones when they have an issue, “hawa ndio wanajuanga hizi mambo.”

Suddenly the guy who plays the piano at our church is spotting dreadlocks and ‘ni yeye anajuanga ku-operate piano,’ and from nowhere, the ‘digital’ people can no longer worship in the same holy mass on Sunday prompting the octogenarians to propose a ‘youth mass.’

I have witnessed secondary school principals employ ‘digital’ employees who have just been admitted to college and university “since they can easily connect with the teenagers…they are both digital.” 

Later I discovered that these ‘peer’ teachers really ‘connected’ with the teenagers since they would hide each other’s transgressions; the students would do drugs, and the male teachers would, in turn, prey on the female students (all in a vow of silence). 

In my own academic journey, taking a Master’s degree in Linguistics and writing a thesis on Social Media Language and currently undertaking a Ph.D. in the same subject, I have encountered tens of new words that the ‘digital’ generation has added to Social Media Language. Suddenly ‘tomorrow’ has become ‘tomz’ and ‘neighbours’ have been transformed into ‘neiiz’. This generation suddenly has a compulsive speedy need to consume language in bite-sized chunks and have a need for brevity. Suddenly they are in a hurry to go somewhere and are in a huff to communicate speedily. 

I have watched many classmates in a Master’s class flashing tablets like side mirrors’ googling’ for information and still taking supplementary exams, yet they had the world at their fingertips, and they were letting their’ fingers do the walking.’

Suddenly, owning a smartphone and changing your social media profile picture and updating your status by the hour changes one into a digital being. Suddenly “just ‘DM’ me with your ‘DP’” makes you digital. 

Suddenly having a smartphone, operating a Facebook account, posting three selfies’ +27 more’, and ‘Whatsapping’ in social media has qualified individuals into digital entities. Suddenly being ‘online’ and always ‘typing’ and ‘hotspotting’ has magically swept Kenyans onto the magical carpet of the digital stratosphere.

I have dealt with these ‘digital’ robots undergoing depression since they cannot restrict their smartphones from consuming bundles as soon as they are loaded. I have encountered high school students’ whatsapping’ me asking for definitions of words, yet they are online, and the array of online dictionaries is endless. If they were so digital, they would handle these issues using digital solutions. 

Can I even count the tens of people whom I have seen investing tens of thousands to buy smartphones that could not access 3G and later discovering (over torrents of tears) that the phones were fake just like their ‘digital’ diplomas? 

I have received digital rants because I did not reply to someone’s message on Whatsapp that was sent two days ago, and I could not receive it since I was offline, yet there are SMS services that are dishing out SMS bundles in their thousands. 

I have given my email address to college-going ‘homo-sapienses’ who are now practising ‘homo-computeruses’ who incidentally do not operate email accounts and do not know the process of ‘signing-up’ and attaching a cover letter and a CV. 

I have had many personal ‘private-joke’ moments when a person having a nonagenarian-shilling Samsung Galaxy S-something cannot locate an attachment they downloaded or cannot stop their Whatsapp accounts from automatically downloading videos and photos posted in Whatsapp groups. 

I have rescued many individuals who did not know how their phone indicates that their Whatsapp has been hacked and being operated remotely and others who do not know how high amperage chargers ruins batteries of smartphones that do not have fast-charging technology.

I have been wowed by ‘digital’ citizens who do not know how to ‘coldboot’ and ‘unhang’ mobile phones that have irremovable batteries and others who cannot differentiate charging cables from data cables. 

I dare say that ‘digital’ individuals are indeed countable. Someone must stop this madness of ‘digital’ labels. This generation is not digital, and they are still crawling and hugging their mothers’ bosoms as far as their technological know-how is concerned. The digital person is indeed, ‘one in a million.’ For those who still believe in ‘digital’, save your bundles and attend tutorials on how to set your phone to function normally and how to use it to solve problems instead of creating them because life is hard enough. The digital ones are not yet born! 

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