What Are Digital Immigrants?

An interesting concept I’ve been thinking about lately is described by the term “Digital Immigrants.” The phrase is being used to describe anyone born before the widespread prevalence of personal computers and, especially, the Internet. As such, it applies to just about anyone born before 1980.

Digital immigrants are people for whom modern information technology came along later in life. We’ve had to learn terms and concepts that for the most part weren’t dreamed of when we were young. People under 30 grew up with digital concepts; they are natives to this digital land. The Web, the Internet, browsers, URL’s, hyperlinks, mp3’s and Facebook have always existed in their world. For digital immigrants, as with people learning English as adults after moving here from the “old country,” the process is not natural.

Some “old country” immigrants become proficient in English quickly and eagerly; some do so reluctantly; others see no need to try. There are parallel levels of learning with computers. I’m not a digital native by any means—I have dusty slide rules older than any digital native out there. But, I happen to be an eager and early adopter of this new language. I like to think that my experience learning this language as an adult has given me an appreciation for the questions and difficulties experienced by those approaching a computer for the first time or wrestling with some of the details even after several years of computer use.