On Being a Digital Leopard Frog

Imagine digital technologies in the Reptile Room at your local zoo or aquarium. I think there are three types of technology creatures in our culture zoo.

Technology Turtles are our reptilian luddites. They withdraw from technological advancements into their hard shells whenever they are threatened. This could be the invention of a new social media platform, or it could be a social revolution like the move from script to type, from paper to digital, or from desktop to handheld technology.

Digital Hardbacks may be classic luddites in that they resist the revolution because of some important principle. More often, however, they either love the old ways—and so resist the new ones—or they have been hurt in the dangerous world of digital Darwinism. Once Bitten Twice Shy Technological Turtles rarely peak their beaks out in a digitally rich environment. Turtles move forward, but very slowly.

I have no desire to become a Technology Turtle. Who would want to miss the great things that new technologies and social media has to offer?

At the other side of the enclosure you will find the Connected Chameleon. The tech-savvy Chameleon is on the cutting edge of every social media moment. They don’t merely use technology. They adapt to it. They are able to spot a new creative environment and they quickly find a way to blend in. They are so adept at tech access that it is soon difficult to tell the user from the technology. Connected Chameleons disappear into their digital environment.

Although I love tech talk and new inventions, I don’t wanted to be a Connected Chameleon either. I think too often our generation’s identity is lost in the tools we use.

Instead, I want to be a Digital Leopard Frog.

Leopard Frogs live double lives. About the size of a child’s fist, these little soldiers have adapted to life in water and on land.

In the technological world, Digital Leopard Frogs are also amphibious, able to live in the world of script as comfortably as the world of type. We love print books, but pick up an eBook with ease. We admire inkwells and classic typewriters in the antique store, but pound out our thoughts on keyboards or thumb-tap them into a smartphone. We can pick up social media, but set it aside when it is time to chat with a friend or play outside. Digital Amphibians can fall in love with a tablet or curl up with a book beside a glowing fire.

Digital Leopard Frogs live the double life of the old and the new, finding our way in the world with past-forward spirituality.

Besides a take-it-or-leave-it approach to technology, Leopard Frogs also teach us another thing about culture. Frogs are canaries in the mine when it comes to natural environments. The North American Leopard Frog has been decimated in population in the last 50 years. In their own creaturely way, they are telling us about the poisons in our natural world.

Because Technology Turtles shelter themselves from culture, they cannot tell us of its subtle dangers. And because Connected Chameleons are so skilled at blending in, they are often too close to see when the digital environment is poisonous.

Digital Leopard Frogs, though, are close enough to know the best, but far enough away to see the worst. Our amphibious ways gives us a prophetic view of the culture around us.

In all these ways, I am Digital Leopard Frog.

Where do you live in the Reptile Room of Contemporary Culture?

About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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14 Responses to On Being a Digital Leopard Frog

  1. robstroud says:

    I too am a frog, but during my many years in the ministry, I’ve known an unbelievable number of turtles. I vividly remember one of my first bosses bragging he would never use email because it was so impersonal. Turtle or troglodyte, that type of thinking usually becomes extinct.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yet… turtles are among our oldest thriving creatures. Perhaps they are on… to…. something…..
      Yes, in churches, as well as institutions like governments, schools, and charities, turtles gather on the shore to breed.


  2. Don Johnson says:

    I just got rid of my “smart” phone and now have only home telephone service (Ooma is VOIP) because of the expense ($40+/mo vs. $10). So, I’m a Scrooge frog.


  3. linalaukaR says:

    I’ll compromise myself and admit I’m sort of a turtle. That being said, I’m young enough to have grown up with many of these things – I was on Myspace back when that was a thing, I use WordPress now, and I can’t say it’s hurt me either. However I find I simply don’t need Facebook, an Ebook, or a smartphone, or that the downsides outweigh the positive aspects.


  4. randomyriad says:

    Leopard frogs are also much more mobile than turtles or chameleons. I find I use tool that fits my mood, inspiration, or need best. I like using pen and paper when out and about. I haven’t had a typewriter in years though. I pay most of my bills online, but there are a couple that are easier to deal with in person. I use my computer a lot, but still have a basically stupid phone that I use to tell time and make and receive phone calls. The fact that I can get a phone call anywhere is amazing, but I also choose to turn it off at times. I think i lost the metaphor, because neither reptiles or amphibians use tools. But, I see what you mean.


  5. jubilare says:

    You’ll lose a misplaced finger to that Technology Turtle if you’re careless. 🙂 I remember the first time I described a snapping turtle to a friend in the UK, she didn’t believe me. I sent her pictures, and she said something like “you have Dire Turtles.” ^_^ Of course, now, they’ve been having problems with snapping-turtle expats eating ducks…

    Anyway, I’m with you on the technology spectrum, I think.


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