Most of my friends are in their 30s. In a year I’ll be there too. As I said to one of them recently, this means we are in constant danger of becoming irrelevant to our own interests.
Really, this is true of anyone over the age of 24.
Coming Up and Coming Down
I came of age during the 90’s, a time when technology was changed forever. For perhaps the first time in history, children knew more than their elders about things that actually mattered. Communication, commerce, and the economy itself were changed irrevocably. I even met my first serious girlfriend online, at a time when that was a stigma.
And we, the teenagers of the 1990’s, were told that we were the key to the future.
Silly us. Every generation is told that. It’s part of the schpiel. Fast forward 15 years and the future is a strange place that doesn’t really require e-mail, IMs or a smattering of HTML.
And it really doesn’t need people who are unwilling to learn.
I always try to avoid being a fogey. I remember being 24 and working with people who didn’t “get” email (even one person who didn’t get how to use a mouse). They seemed to think they could get by without, or have someone else do it. They even wore it as a badge of pride, wryly joking that they’re “too old” for that in order to pass the buck. This is the very height of arrogance.
I try not to be that person.
Top 5 Reasons Not to Be a Fogey
- Leadership. Every time I go to a conference, seminar or networking event the hot topic is social media, web 2.0 and technology. And every time, what I see is a sea of adults with questions struggling to fit the new internet into their existing ideas of business. If you make a point of using new technology routinely, you will be the one giving casual, easy answers whether you are 20 or 45.
- Marketability. If you can confidently say you know the latest version of Word, that’s good for your marketability. Even better if employers or clients can easily find you on Facebook and your blog. Gold star if you have Twitter and use it correctly.
- Respect. If you are not savvy on the latest tech, you are not pulling your weight no matter what anyone tells you. By making the effort to teach yourself new tech (by using tutorials and forums, not by pestering young co-workers) you show that you respect those you work with.
- Manners. At this point, not having a Facebook page is like turning off the lights and hiding when someone knocks on your door. Sure, it’s your right to do it, but it’s downright antisocial. If you use more evolved social media like Twitter, even better.
- Because you love your brain. The number one temptation that rears its head as you age past 25 is to avoid new things that are uncomfortable or different from what you knew as a youngster. But challenging yourself with new mental activities has a whole host of health benefits, that cannot be replicated by familiar challenges. In other words, a harder crossword puzzle will not save you from Alzheimer’s, but your first sudoku will. Assuming you’re not going to teach yourself a new language or go back to college at 40, learning new tech is a damn fine way to get the challenges that will keep your mind sharp.
But It’s Hard
“But Drew,” you’re saying. “It hurts my head to look at Twitter. It’s not like email, and I don’t like things that’re diff’rent.” (Unless you’re <25 in which case you’ve stopped reading, but your time will come.)
The point is, nothing awesome is easy. Well, a mojito made with Hendrick’s gin instead of rum is the height of awesome, and it’s easy, but still. In general, if you want to win life, you have to be prepared to do some legwork.
To me there are two keys to this: I try not to complain about new stuff (at least not just because it’s new), and I try things that are uncomfortable, even after they become uncomfortable. Trying something once really won’t help you understand it. But it’s amazing how a week of continuous usage of some complicated, annoying, useless thing makes it easy, intuitive and useful.
This is my approach to the fast pace of technology, and 4 times out of 5 I find that new stuff is better than I thought. I’m curious to hear your own approach, and how you deal with a new app, device or program.
So, how long do you fiddle with something new before you give up on it?
My book Lúnasa Days is available on Kindle and in paperback. Get your copy here.