Baby Boomers – Learn Technology or . . .

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This is how most Baby-Boomers perceive the technical departments at most computer companies. Apt? Probably not. But it makes for a cute photo.

You know the joke: if you can’t program your new TV, computer, cell phone, etc., call your 5-year old grandson over. Chances are, within an hour he’ll be finished programming everything, and you’ll be all set. The sad thing is, it’s no joke: our grandchildren are good at technology. Better, even, than our children. I have found that my daughter and step-sons, with one notable exception, are clueless about the new technology. As a result, I get called a lot. Because I didn’t give up — I kept at the technology and have kept fairly current on how to utilize all the new methods of networking that are available, I can cope.
That’s not to say I’m infallible. I get frustrated, too. New things are hard to learn, and sometimes it just seems to be too much trouble. But eventually, I can get it down.  I’ve never given up. But some of my friends and co-boomers have.
Usually these throw-in-the-towellers are men, but not always. I think men are more likely to give up because they are (1) used to having women doing things for them, and (2) because many of them didn’t take classes in secretarial science, like many women did, in high school.
I confess that I didn’t take shorthand; but I took all the typing classes I could, and even attended a summer session in advanced typing, using the new technology of the time: the IBM Selectric. I left high school typing 90 words per minute on an electric keyboard, knowing how to format documents quickly, and also knowing how to use carbons. This was before most offices had copiers; it was also before faxes, the personal computer, and the Internet. The year was 1968. We had no idea what was coming, and wouldn’t have believed it if we had.
Fast forward to 2010. I’m going to be 60 in a few days, and I own a laptop and a desktop computer, both which I use daily; I have an iPod Touch®, a cell phone, and a Kindle®. My car has satellite radio. I have a Facebook account, and I’m also on Linked In and Twitter (but I don’t Tweet much yet). Facebook took some getting used to, but I enjoy it now. I was slow to get with the “groove,” as we used to say back in the day; but now I find Facebook an easy way to keep in touch. Instead of finding Facebook to be intrusive and nosey, as some of my co-boomers have said they found, I like the informality of it. If you want, you can have private conversations or message people privately; but you can also begin group conversations and enjoy finding out more about your Facebook friends. Not that there aren’t some drawbacks – some people’s opinions are hard to accept, and this can be a problem. Also, sometimes pictures of you show up that are less than flattering, and when people tag you in those photos, they appear on your profile. That can be a little disconcerting. But truly, the Facebook interface is a virtual party. It’s like going to  a group gathering, sans food, drinks and having to dress up, and converse. It can also be like eavesdropping, because you can “listen in” to other’s conversations and not chime in, but rather read and enjoy. If you get bored with that, you can play games with other people on Facebook, people you don’t know and will never know. These people are all over the world, not just in the U.S. Some of the games will let you change your name to something non-identifying, so you can play incognito.
While I have learned to enjoy Facebook, and now keep a blog (which you are reading), many of my friends have not. Some have come on to it, tried it, and left, usually with disgust and insulting remarks. They get frustrated with the rules of cyber-networking, don’t understand the community, and are unwilling to learn this new, and I believe, very important technology. As a result, they are now losing the battle with age, and are likely to rapidly decline into the land of the doddering.
I refuse to give up that quickly. Surely, there will be a time when some of the new stuff becomes burdensome. But the longer I can stave off the temptation to leave it to the younger crowd, the longer I can stay alive.
There’s a good reason why our grandchildren are so good at dealing with our cell phones, our pdas, and our personal computing glitches – they aren’t intimidated by it. Everything is new to them right now, so computers, etc., are no big deal. Also, they don’t have all the information stored in their internal hard drives (minds) that we do; they don’t have to filter through so much. And, they aren’t old enough to have become arrogant old farts. I’m not saying I don’t get frustrated – we all do. Even the five-year-old does; but he handles it better than I do – instead of yelling and screaming and blaming the technology, he keeps at it, quietly, until he gets it.  I could learn from that, and so could the other old farts. Are you listening, Peeps? (BTW, the five-year-old mentioned is apocryphal. I don’t have a grandchild that age. But if I did, I’m sure he or she could do it, lickity-split.)

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