Our world is a very different place than what it was thirty years ago. One aspect of how things have changed is the role of technology in our daily lives. As mid-lifers, we were there to see the dawn of a new era and we’ve watched its evolution into the place it holds today. Young people who grew up inside this evolution may hardly be aware that it occurred. Those of us who are older watched our world change and we did it through the eyes of adults.
We may find technology useful. We may find it enjoyable. We may find it a frustrating annoyance we are forced to deal with when methods we formerly used to accomplish tasks have become obsolete and no longer an option. Perhaps we experience all of the above! But in the over-arching picture of our world today, technologically speaking, there are two things I find very interesting.
One is the magnitude of what moving into this era meant for us and the learning curve we’ve been on ever since. We may have encountered our first personal computer, or what was then an amazing new way of instant communication, called e-mail, in our workplaces. We are a generation of doers and so we didn’t dilly-dally – we set about the business of adapting to this new landscape. Eventually we took the plunge and purchased desktop computers for our homes. Since those early days, which by today’s technological standards may seem quaint, we have continued on our adaptation-path. New ways of applying technology to daily living seem to pop up at every turn. Sometimes we hide. Sometimes we resist. But usually we forge ahead and learn to deal with it, sometimes even embracing new ways of managing life! We are calling Ubers with our apps, sharing online calendars with spouses or partners, creating electronic invitations to special events, finding ideas on Pinterest to enrich or beautify our lives, or doing what I did just a few days ago - surprising friends with a text that includes a personal Bitmoji. (Ok, I must confess I got a bit of help from my grandson, but my friends loved it!)
Of course, the things I’ve mentioned above are a very short excerpt from an almost endless list of ways that society is using technology. We mid-lifers have adapted and coped, but it would not be honest to not admit that generally, a gap exists between us and them: “digital natives” (those who grew up in technology) and we who grew up in the analog world. This gap can be seen all around us and ties in to the second observation I see as fascinating: in a future day, our generation will be gone. The world will be filled with digital natives and this divide will have aged out. But for now, we are witnessing an interaction between two sub-cultures which will, one day, be history.
Of course, there are individuals in our age group who are managing technology with ease and it would be unwise to stereotype.
But every day in my work as an employment counselor, I see evidence of a gap. Career search, while exceptions still exist, has become an entirely different experience than it used to be. Does anyone out there remember the days when looking for a job gave us the option of “pounding the pavement?” When we could meet a potential employer in person, give them a warm handshake and hand them an application we had completed on paper? Job hunting today consists mostly of online interactions. It is sobering when I encounter people in our age group, even senior citizens, who have lost a job and are desperately seeking employment because they have bills to pay and social security isn’t cutting it. For them, this landscape can be frustrating and bewildering. I see it in their faces; I hear it in the questions they ask. Younger people navigate this process with ease; for older people, it is a situation that requires courage.
In our technology-filled world, we do what we have to do to get through. We recognize that frequently our lives are easier or more efficient with technology. Sometimes we even have fun! But does it ever get just a little under your skin that what takes you an hour to figure out (if you can), your 9-year-old grandchild can master in a snap? We’re smart, we’re educated, so what is the deal with technology? Please join me next time as we further discuss this question.