My family first got the internet in the late 90’s. My brother Chris was less than 10 years old and my dad was in his 40s, but basically from day one, Chris has been better at the internet than my dad. If the internet was the Olympics, Chris would be the United States and my father would be Uzbekistan.
Why is that? Shouldn’t my dad’s fully developed brain have picked up on the complexity of the internet faster than my brother’s mush of a brain? Chris was still learning letters from an unusually large bird on TV and he had yet to grasp the fact of why he can’t eat ice cream for every meal. Actually he still questions that one.
I could understand Chris figuring out the Internet quicker than my dad if Chris had access to the internet before dad did. Like, if Chris saved up his Phoenix Suns piggy bank money, bought a computer and then used all the free AOL hours he had been collecting in his Lucky Charms. But I don’t think that was the case.
I’m pretty sure my dad first logged onto the World Wide Web the same night Chris did. I don’t remember it exactly but I am picturing my mom thinking the AOL screeching was some type of alarm and immediately trying to turn off the computer.
And I’m not just picking on my parents as a payback for the genes they gave me the caused my lack of NBA player height or my uncomfortably hairy arms (thanks mom). I have found that struggling with technology is very common in adults, much like frequent urination and night blindness.
Don’t get me wrong, I know there are plenty of adults out there that could run circles around me when it comes to the internet (not literally run though, their arthritis won’t allow it). And there are plenty of dumb kids out there that don’t know a gigabyte from a bagel bite. I am not trying to say older folks drool and kids rule. I am just saying that it has been my experience that older people often have a hard time with new technology.
I took a class in college that was essentially called computers for dummies. I took it because I thought it would be an easy A and that maybe I could find a girl who would be dumb enough to go out with me (I ended up getting one of the two. I will leave it up to your imagination to decide which one you think it was).
The class was comprised of me and about a dozen people somewhere between the ages of 40 and 60. On the first day of class our teacher taught us how to do a right click with the mouse. When the teacher said this, I smirked and looked around the class to make eye contact with someone else as if to say, “did he really just teach us that? What’s coming next, a double click?”
But to my surprise, the rest of the class was staring intently at the teacher and focused on practicing the right click. An easy explanation to why I was the only one smirking is that the other folks had not had much experience with a mouse that wasn’t named Mickey.
But as I started to think about this more, I realized that when my parents were younger, their greatest form of technology was Silly Putty and a Pez Dispenser. They didn’t have a lightning fast laptop or an instantaneous iPad.
Most of their high tech gadgets required patience.
If they messed up while using a typewriter, they had to completely start over what they were typing. When taking a photograph, they had to be very precise and make sure everyone was smiling and exactly where they needed to be. They weren’t going to get the picture back for days or weeks. They didn’t have the luxury of immediately looking at a digital screen to see how it turned out.
Their initial encounter with technology taught them patience. I guess all this explains why my mom spends 10 minutes determining whether or not it is in her best interest to update her iTunes.
Technology has caused just the opposite with my generation. We want access to everything immediately. If a webpage is slow to load, we close out of it and try another one. Recent technology has many great advantages, but teaching patience is not one of them.
I am sure that when I am 50 I will be confused by the latest technology and my kids will be giving me a hard time. I can’t wait to find out what their right click moment will be.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)