Do you have iFear? Do you shudder at the thought of having to buy a new computer or replace a dinosaur cell phone? If I was to say “zebibyte” or “disambiguation” or “polymorphism” would you have a clue what I meant? Do you own a computer and/or a cell phone but never really use them? Do you feel almost proud of the fact that you don’t (won’t) rely on electronic gadgets that could enhance your life?

          Well, friends, you are not alone. I have found that, as seniors, how much new technology we embrace depends on a number of factors. How much techie stuff was involved in your job and how much have you wanted to get away from it now that you’re retired? How much do you need/ desire to play games or listen to music anytime anywhere? How important is it to stay up with your kids and grandkids who purchase and rely heavily on the latest technology?

          I have also found it’s not an ‘across the board’ kind of resistance. Some people refuse to have anything other than the most basic cell phone but will purchase and learn all there is to know about Kindles and like products in order to more easily and cheaply acquire and enjoy books. Some people have the most advanced iPad available but never own and/or use a computer at all. Many seniors, including me, get to a point and say, “Okay, this is as far as I’m going with new electronics. I don’t need nor will I purchase another computer or cell phone (because you know they come out with new ones every few months!) unless I’m forced to.” All the learning, expanding one’s mind in the electronic arena, and, yes, frustration stops at the current level. We make do from then on.

          Not too many of my friends who avoid new technology want to admit it is daunting. Sure, we probably don’t need electronics that automatically sync our calendars with our computers/ iPads/ iPhones now that we’re retired. Just trying to figure out some of the newer (and even older) gadgets can require a PhD it seems. Visiting dealers like the Apple store, AT&T, Verizon, Best Buy or taking classes at the JC often times doesn’t seem to help much in really increasing our understanding of a product. Doing this can merely increase our frustration with how little we are able to grasp the concepts of  how to work these expensive electronics. My mind works linearly and some of the concepts and applications aren’t structured that way. Multi-tasking younger people don’t need to understand an A + B = C thus B = C – A concept in order to get the most out of new technology.
          And don’t even talk about the cost. We all know about the vice grip of new hardware and contracts. How much sense does it make to have a gadget that lets you do some basic stuff (e-mail, internet) but costs more than we pay for groceries in a month?

          Having said all this, I must admit I’m pretty plugged in. In addition to a laptop that is just a year old, I recently purchased an iPhone (so I could take better pictures!). I am just at the beginning of the learning curve on the iPhone so my frustration levels are running pretty high. I could live without all this new technology but I must be getting something out of it or I wouldn’t so eagerly participate.

          What do I get out of a solid computer and a phone that connects me to the world through a couple of clicks? First of all, I love having social connections available to me on Facebook and at other sites that feature things I’m interested in. I do my banking online because it is easy and safe and keeps me from having to drive across town and stand in line. If I miss a Sunday at the Center for Spiritual Living, I can watch the talk online. I love Pinterest when I’m bored or in avoidance of other things I should be doing. I’m not a big phone talker, thus I absolutely LOVE texting, a shorter mini-conversation rather than a protracted diatribe, but it doesn’t work for all conversations. I thoroughly enjoy Words with Friends; it’s the only game I play on my phone. I do tweet on Twitter but mostly as part of this blog. And then there’s all the information that is virtually in the palm of my hand. I enjoy learning, whether it’s what’s on the menu at Rosso or the date of the next haiku festival in Ukiah. So, you see, I don’t look at it as learning how to use an electronic contraption. I look at it as learning how to mine the information I need and want and reap the benefits that might, at best, entertain me but hopefully enhance my life, as well.

          I’m sure you maintain the technology level that works best for your interests, needs and budget. I do, however, encourage you not to give up on this fast-paced and often frustrating area of life and to overcome your fear of technology. It can bring you delight.

          Oh, as for those words at the beginning of this piece:  a “zebibyte” is a standards-based binary multiple of the byte, a unit of digital information storage, “disambiguation” is the process of resolving the conflicts that arise when a single term is ambiguous and “polymorphism” is the ability (in programming) to present the same interface for differing underlying forms (data types). Aren’t you glad I cleared that up???

Other posts you might enjoy:
          Lighting the Way
          Complaints 101