Old People and Technology


Image by Wideopencode

There is an apparent discrepancy between older generations’ use of technology and younger generations’ use of technology. Older people, as any young person who’s had to do tech support knows, tend to be less proficient in their use of technology.

As my parents struggled to use our new GPS, I wondered exactly why they couldn’t cope as well as I could. Part of the reason, I think, is that I grew up playing with the technology, which is how much of it is supposed to be used. Playing is an essential part of the learning experience, and I think our venerable elders forgot how to do that or refuse to do so. Perhaps they’re afraid of doing something wrong. Point is, they never seem to play with the technology, and thus can’t learn its use proficiently.

I have a friend who takes this to an extreme opposite. Whenever he encounters an unfamiliar piece of technology, he presses buttons at lightning speed, getting results fast, faster than I can even parse, usually. He’s certainly not afraid of making an error, and in the time I’ve seen him work his magic, he hasn’t messed up beyond easy repair once.

Relatedly, when my parents got out of our rental car one night in Maryland, the lights stayed on for a bit because my dad pressed the lock button. I, representative of a younger generation (or perhaps just headstrong), was perfectly willing to let the car turn the lights off on its own, and I started to walk away. My parents, alarmed at the unexpected behavio[u]r, stayed to make sure they would go off. I stayed too, and of course they turned off in a minute or two.

Trusting technology, as both my parents and my friend show, is an important part in improving one’s overall proficiency. One has to trust that their computer isn’t going to blow up at the slightest mis-click. Or even simpler, that their programs won’t accidentally delete data if they enter the wrong command. I know my parents, like anyone who’s worked with older computers, have had bad experiences with losing data as a result of shoddy operating systems (*eyes windows 95*).

I’m not sure that these are the reasons old people can’t seem to cope with technology, but in my experience they seem to hold true. Who knows? Maybe our generation is just as inept, yet the proficient users outshine the less-able ones. Maybe it just seems like we’re better with technology because the baby boomer’s children increase the pool of potential-technologers so it seems like there are more of us.

It could be any of these, but one thing’s for sure; my mom’s computer isn’t going to fix itself.

(Any other theories would be much appreciated.)