If you’re old enough to remember that old saying “Keeping up with the Joneses,” you’re old enough to understand how hard it has become to really keep up.
But I’m not talking about the Jonses any longer. That’s old news.
I’m talking about keeping up with the wild pace of technology. My father (may he rest in peace), at 89, taught himself to use a computer. But then again, he was always handy and could build a radio or a car engine from scratch, and isn’t technology the modern-day equivalent of those kinds of skills?
The Pew Research Center found, in 2012, that more than half of adults aged 65 and older used the Internet. And knowing that 59 percent of seniors report going online – a increase of six percentage points in just one year – puts a little pressure on me to not only keep up, but keep my skills as sharp as a No.2 Pencil (remember those?).
After learning this tidbit, I thought back to the 1990s when I first had to learn about computers, shivering at the memory of feeling totally inept and insecure the way someone might remember the social pains of being a teenager. I needed to learn this new language – and fast. There were many people of my baby boomer generation, who were already light years ahead of me. My two young sons, who I practically bribed to teach me, quickly lost all patience for my pesky questions and ineptitude. I finally decided that if I wanted to preserve our relationship I needed to hire someone who charged a lot of money to teach me what they themselves had learned so effortlessly for free.
I persevered, of course, and I eventually picked it up. But as the pace of technology quickened, I rapidly fell behind. And today, although technology gives me mixed feelings that catapult me from feeling totally entranced and smitten to feeling exasperated and incompetent, there are those moments when I realize how wonderful it is to be able to find out anything I want to know with the click of a mouse, like which day of the week Passover will fall on in twenty years from now. Talk about planning ahead!
Yes, it does come in handy when I want immediate gratification with an instantaneous answer to just about any question. Yet still, there is something inside me that still yearns for the thrill of the search through the dusty shelves of a library. (I’m loath to admit that I haven’t yet gone into my local library to get my card – something I remember fondly from my childhood – since moving over a year ago. I might not have been old enough to have a credit card, but that library card? It was like a badge of honor).
And lately, as much as it’s making my life easier, in so many ways technology is making it harder. Instead of propelling me forward, it’s tiring me out and making me feel old and left behind with each emerging pop-up, banner ad, new app and update.
Why, then, do I feel compelled to check something like Facebook throughout the day? It’s not like I participate in it all that much. Maybe it’s because I work alone, and logging onto Facebook is the loner’s equivalent to walking to the water cooler. But every time I take that walk, I regret it and want to turn around: reading about what other people are doing always seems to fill me with a sense of dread. It seems that everyone – except for me – is having the time of their lives. Parties! Exotic travel! Fun get-togethers! Photos of gourmet meals that make me want to drool!
Clearly I need to get out more.
Forget Twitter, which I’ve pretty much abandoned. It was fun in the beginning; amassing followers and finding new people to trail was all so thrilling and new. But that adrenalin rush quickly dwindled. As the days passed, I forgot to log on and when I finally did, I couldn’t remember my password or understand what anyone was talking about anyway, feeling like I had stepped off the speeding elevator and gotten dumped in the basement.
Google plus, Stumble Upon, Instagram, Pinterest, Sulia, Shareblock, Bubblews; even Uber. They’re zipping along just fine without me. I’m genuinely stumped. And by the time I figure it all out, they’ll be yesterday’s news, anyway.
And finally, I’m considering giving up on texting (yes! I do text!) ever since, when my best friend sent me a photo of herself posing in a cute short black dress, my message back to her read, “You look fat!” instead of “You look fab!”
I might not understand or be able to keep up with it all, but one thing I know for sure is that the Internet will continue to evolve. Like the giraffe’s neck, who some believe evolved in order for the animal to adapt to a food shortage and reach the highest branches for its meal, technology will continue to stretch higher and higher – as well it should.
On the other hand, the other giraffe theory – that those with the long necks are the ones who survive – could apply just as well. Those who stick their necks out to peer over the horizon, and those with the longest range, are the ones who will persist and benefit the most.
Where does that leave people like me?
I think I’ll invent a new social media platform.
Welcome to Stumble Along.