According to Prensky, Digital Natives have been born into a world where technology is an integral part of everyday life, whereas those who transitioned from analogue to digital and had to learn tech speak, are a Digital Immigrant.
There are many facets of technology that I do not understand and just because I’m a millennial does not mean I am automatically computer literate. I, admittedly, don’t know how to use Excel, nor do I understand the majority of video games, instead I have had to learn these skills just like an Immigrant, and yet still I am not a master of them despite my date of birth. The language of technology is not innate like a mother tongue, in the sense that although we live in a digital world, we are not 100% living digitally all the time, so how can we be expected to be ‘fluent’?
However, I do understand the notion of the ‘Digital Immigrant Accent’, which will always be the giveaway of someone’s background and origins, given that I can tell the tone that my parents use on Facebook differs to that of my peers to the point that it feels as if they are using it ‘wrong’. For Natives, to post a Facebook status is to post something meaningful where it is expected to receive ‘likes’ and ‘comments’; a Facebook status is not for a passing thought – that’s Twitter . The Immigrants that I know do not have this understanding, and post statuses as if they are Tweets, hence when I read them, I can’t help but feel a certain pity, because although they are trying to adapt to social media, they just don’t really get it. Kudos for effort though.
An alternative to these definitions is the idea that there are not Natives and Immigrants, but Visitors and Residents, a spectrum whereby the Visitor does not want a digital identity but is not averse to using technology and the Resident sees the Internet as essential to maintaining social interactions and expressing themselves.
I have developed and maintained friendships online, so I do adhere to the notion of Visitor/Resident and I do know millennials that do not have a Facebook but appreciate the value of the Internet, however I can see how elements of the Native/Immigrant definitions are not “dead” nor “dying”, such as the accent.
Unfortunately and probably unintentionally, White contradicts himself as he attempts to disprove Prensky’s Immigrant/Native theory by quite literally, accidentally and ironically conforming to this exact idea himself as he declares,
“It is not uncommon to hear people asking each other if they have ‘been’ ‘in’ to Facebook today, for example.”
If we accept the terms Digital Natives and Immigrants, we must accept that an accent exists and that White is an Immigrant and thus I am a Native. Hence I can say there is no set phrase of having “been to” or “in Facebook”; these do not exist and this quote is the clearest example of a Digital Immigrant accent: We say “I was on Facebook”. It would in fact be extremely uncommon to “hear people asking each other if they have ‘been’ ‘in’ to Facebook today” so uncommon even that reading this article was the first time that I, as a digital language expert, had ever heard it. Because White has suggested this a set phrase, for me his argument of offering an alternative to Natives and Immigrants collapses on itself, hence I can’t help but identify more with those labels.
— Luxury Society (@LuxurySociety) February 8, 2016