My Dad knows how to use the web properly

My eighty-two year old Dad is an enthusiast for things online. His day begins with his iPad and a tour of the morning news stories before he switches to Facebook to catch up with friends and comments on the issues of the day. Afternoons are spent at his desk watching YouTube videos; he is an enthusiast for black and white war films and Westerns.

The Internet is something he uses; it is not something he regards as authoritative. Occasionally, watching some video on some aspect of military history, he will say, “that is not right,” and he will turn to one of his collection of military history books to see if his objection is a valid one.

My Dad always treated books with the utmost respect. A book was never something to be treated lightly, or misused, or carelessly discarded.

Books always had a feeling of security and trustworthiness, perhaps that feeling was initially derived from the attitude to reading of my parents, but the idea has a logical basis.  Books are tangible, solid; hard copies, in contemporary parlance.  For a book to be in your hands demanded a whole chain of human action and presence, ending in the location where you happened to  be.  There were the printers and distributors and sellers, and while the first two were anonymous and remote, the bookseller was very tangible flesh and blood. A bookshop might be wary of selling material that would bring the business into disrepute,

My Dad would happily acknowledge that electronic communication is wonderful.  The ability to click a mouse and immediately access news stories from every imaginable angle brings a whole world of knowledge unattainable by turning to the pages of a book. But the international is impersonal and intangible.

The process that leads to a book being in your hands gives those books a sense of authority, a sense that they can be trusted.  Web pages can be changed in a moment; stories believed and trusted can disappear. The permanent nature of books demands that they be reliable.

The easy access to the web and the ability to post just about anything means that material that has been posted online has not the same authority as books because it has not demanded the process of writing and printing and distribution that gives authority to books.

My Dad readily picks up the phone to the broadband provider to complain if the speed of the connection is slow, but he does not rely on that connection for his understanding of the world. Turning to his shelves, he knows what he reads is more trustworthy than what he encounters online.

 

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