It’s no secret that experiences define life. I’ve had my fair share, but I find myself continually challenged by the youth I spend time with. However, they come with strings attached and one of these is their continual pursuit of new technology. Many have never known a day without touching a computer.
When our sons were in high school, in about 1996, we bought our first computer. I was the novice and they were the experts. What pleasure they had in watching me suffer through all the help menus, the insert button and e-mail. However, my fingers flew across the keyboard because my wise mother made me take typing in high school. Eventually, I overcame my fear of the new frontier and was able to blaze a narrow, but useful path for specific needs.
Downloading photos ushered in a new era, and somewhere in a bunch of files with useless names, these treasures began to be saved in something other than a photo album.
Next in my arsenal was the cell phone. At first, it was merely a convenience, but now it strikes terror in my heart if I leave home without it. It is my personalized phone book, entertainment when I must wait somewhere and a nuisance when I prefer not to be bothered.
Next, in 2008, a Mother’s Day present was one of those GPS navigators. We all thought it would be great on judging trips. The jury is still out on this one as I prefer listening to the radio and a friend beside me over that monotone voice with directions. It does not even say welcome home.
Early in 2010, at the pleading of my college judging students (who had grown weary of cheery 7 a.m. calls), I added texting to my cell phone plan, and as they say … the rest is history! Responses to e-mails had been slow, but texting was nearly immediate. It can save me precious time as well as wasting it. However, I now view it as absolutely necessary.
Then I started hearing about this Skype program. I had watched it work at some seminars and thought it must be out of my range of capability. When the Arizona grandson arrived in August, I could not wait to trade in my 4-year-old computer for a new one with a wide screen and you guessed it …Skype. What a fun addition of technology this is, when the miles separate you. It is even Bonnie-proof.
Facebook was just for kids, I thought, but with some encouragement, a 4-H teen created a page for me. It sat around in my computer and I had little interest in giving valuable time to this extra intrusion. Then I began to see it everywhere on Web pages and the other state 4-H educators started talking about this tool and how they used it in their programming.
Once again, I jumped on the bandwagon attempting to keep up with the Jones. No one was going to call me Wilma Flintstone! In late December, I started learning how to set up a page for the Ohio 4-H Dairy Program. While many organizations will tell you to follow them on Facebook; not many tell you HOW to use it.
To my rescue was the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation and a social media guide with information for both beginners and advanced users. It can be found at http://ofbf.org/media-and-publications/social-media/.
By January, I welcomed my resolution to create such a tool for educational purposes. Kristin Taylor of Wayne County provided great advice and serves as my mentor. Extension educator Lucinda Miller is my co-worker across the hall who graciously answers any and all of my questions about how she manages her 4-H small animal page. Then, by mid-January, our Facebook page, Ohio 4-H Dairy Program, was launched.
I must admit to feeling a sense of pride in this task. It provides updates, recognitions, scholarship announcements, links to other dairy organizations who incorporate Facebook pages and now, a question of the week. My primary goal is to use this page as an educational and informational tool that will reach a broader audience. Our webpage (www.4hansci.osu.edu/dairy) remains the primary source, but sometimes it is cumbersome to find a quick answer.
It is important to note (at this point in my article) that I am not advocating or discouraging personal Facebook pages. It can be a useful and fun tool to stay in touch with friends. It is important to understand that the site must be used responsibly, but when it is used to create drama, parents have a right to be concerned about negative online behavior.
An excellent resource on this topic can be found at www.commonsensemedia.org/sites/default/files/Facebook-Tip.pdf. Facebook also addresses the topic on how to use controls responsibly and respectfully at www.facebook.com/fbsafety and www.facebook.com/security.
Indeed, Facebook has become a household word since it began in 2004. To date there are more than 500 million active users. If this were a country, it would have the third largest population in the world. In one month, more that 30 billion pieces of content are shared and more than 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook. Plus, one of the largest growing age groups of Facebook users are those over age 55.
If this column has interested you at all, here are a few Facebook suggestions for teens and adults:
1. Do your homework and use the Ohio Farm Bureau guide titled Discover Social Media.
2. When you plan to spend some time learning about Facebook, you can discover how kids and parents are using this tool and why they find it interesting.
3. ADULTS: Spending time together with youth as your teacher is beneficial. Each gains something in the role reversal. YOUTH: Spending time with adults and listening to their suggestions and concerns is also useful. They have lived longer.
4. There are many ways to protect/control content that is exposed on Facebook and other elements of social media. Nothing beats involvement and education. Alas, ignorance is not bliss. Do your research, be concerned and find out about settings and privacy.
5. Balance has been and always will be important when it comes to how we spend our time. Life should not be consumed by such social media, but it can add some positives. From transistor radios to VCRs and CDs, from $80 calculators to the $2 pocket version, from ditto machines to copiers, from a party line phone to texting, from an old Surge strap milker to automatic take-offs, all have played a role my evolution with technology.
Keep learning. At my “seasoned” age, I have adapted because I learned about what happened to dinosaurs. Times have changed, but a desire to learn should be lifelong. I may not always be proficient, but I have had fun adjusting my learning curve. I hope you will choose to view our Ohio 4-H Dairy Program Facebook page. It’s a new concept and I look forward to connecting with you in cyber space.
(Bonnie Ayars is a dairy program specialist at Ohio State University. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)