I?m going to to start this post off with a story of something that happened to me. In December 2009 my Dad and I, enticed by my talk about local work with the Kington Blackboard, went to the Kington Christmas fair to take a look around the town, sample what the markets had to offer and watch the Christmas lights switch-on. It was a lovely weekend of good shopping, good food, good drink and very good company from our hospitable bed and breakfast landlady. At the end of the weekend, my Dad dropped me off at the nearest train station in Knighton to catch a train back to Birmingham whilst he drove home to Caerphilly.
A couple of days later I was delivering a talk about local training session when I started to feel my mobile vibrate silently in my pocket with numerous phone calls, texts and voicemail messages. I checked it during a break to find many appeals from my family to contact them straight away. Psyching myself up for bad news of some sort, I phoned my Mum.
?Where are you?? Mum asked
?I?m at a training session.?
?Oh. Well Dad said he?d dropped you off at the station on Sunday and you didn?t call him to say that you?d gotten home safely.? Oh dear.
?Ah. Sorry about that.?
?And then I checked your Digbeth website and you?ve not updated that since Sunday either.?
?No I haven?t?
?Well, why not??
?Er…..I?ve been busy….?
The conversation ended with me telling Mum to check my Twitter profile before panicking next time and one big realization – my parents check up on me by looking at what I?ve been saying online. Not in a weird stalker-ish way – just to see if I?m alright, what I?m getting up to and what?s new in my life. It?s fine and dandy by me – it?s all stuff I?ve consciously put into the public domain, they?re more than used to my strange and sweary ways and it?s nice to know they care. It seems to be one of the main reasons my Dad switches on his laptop and goes online at all and definitely the reason Mum progressed from looking at my tweets to creating a Twitter account for herself.
Karen Strunks has experienced the same phenonemmon – her mum @createdineire?s tweets started off with mainly messages to Karen but has grown to include the highlights of her day and conversations with Karen?s friends that have prompted her to paint pictures of raccoons.
When people talk of the benefits of learning how to use the internet they do talk about how great it is for keeping in touch with loved ones but they don?t tend to highlight to that it?s also a great way to gain a new insight into their lives and eavesdrop on their conversations. It would be great to see a digital inclusion campaign/project that exploited parents? desire for this as an incentive for getting online.