“Why can’t things go back to the way they use to be?” That rhetorical question was asked by my friend, Jay, a fellow boomer who frequently expresses dislike for most things technical including computers and cell phones. His disdain for such gadgets is not only the result of occasional encounters with computerized devices that refuse to yield to his touch; it is ongoing warfare with any gadget that requires more steps to operate than turning it on and off. And although he occasionally uses the Internet, he feels that he could easily live without it, without email, without cell phones and texting. I could go on, but that might imply that he is a dinosaur, which would be an insult to every prehistoric creature ever recreated in a computer simulation.
Humans are creatures of habit. We get used to doing the same old things, the same old way. Change will never be embraced by everyone, nor will resistance to change prevent it. Like it or not — change happens; so the sensible thing to do would be to accept and enjoy it.
I recently went to the post office to mail a small package. Sometimes when I go there, I purchase a roll of stamps that usually lasts for several months, because I use them infrequently to snail mail a birthday card or send something to one of the few organizations that still doesn’t offer online services. On this particular day, when the clerk asked me if I needed stamps, I said that I didn’t need any and she replied with a wide grin, “You know y’all have to mail those bills, don’t you?” I returned her smile and responded innocently, “No, I pay my bills on line.”
Freeze! Apparently, I said the wrong thing on the wrong day, because our previously warm conversation immediately chilled as she replied, “You see there. That’s why people are losing jobs, because y’all are doing everything on line.”
I understand that the USPS is in deep financial trouble and facing possible bankruptcy, and I also understand why postal employees would express dismay about computer-using customers who they perceive to be threatening their livelihood. But hold on just one stamp-licking minute, this issue is much deeper than the USPS.
Computer technology may be the disdain of some, but it is a golden goose for people like me who prefer the convenience of on-line transactions to trudging here, there and everywhere to get things done. Aside from exchanging and receiving countless emails each day, I shop, do research, pay bills, bank, participate in webinars and classes, and perform numerous other activities including social networking with relatives and friends, some of whom I rarely see except at a funeral or the occasional family reunion.
Unlike many of my boomer peers, I have been a computer junky and Internet enthusiast for over 25 years. In fact, my first online chat room experience occurred in the late 1990s. It was mid-December, and I was in a Yahoo chat room when my chat buddy invited me out for New Year’s Eve. No, I did not accept his invitation. However, I did — once — meet and date for several months another online friend; but just as offline social relationships falter for any number of reasons, our online connection was also short-lived.
Aside from online dating, the Internet offers a wealth of opportunities to do any and everything including apply for a job, renew a drivers permit, and even earn a college degree. And computer technology — what doesn’t it do? Nearly everything from appliances to vehicles is loaded with computerized gadgets, sensors, lasers, and cameras. Some GPS systems not only contain a crash warning system that alerts drivers to blind spots and impending collisions, but also signals when they are drifting too far out of their lane. As Elizabeth Pope describes it, smart phones have nothing on smart cars.
Change is challenging. Many people who resist it feel a plethora of mixed emotions from anger and frustration to outright confusion. I read somewhere — and I firmly believe that — “if you get use to the idea that whatever you cannot personally control is going to happen anyway, acceptance becomes more bearable.”
Baby boomers are particularly reluctant to embrace computers. Some months ago, on ABC television’s The View, the colorful Judge Judy made the following amusing confession, “I didn’t use a computer until about 8 months ago. I can’t do that little mouse thing.”
Like it or not, accept it or not, face it: computers and the Internet are a dominant — and permanent — entity in our society.
This excerpt from the April 13, 2012 Pew Internet report reveals that, “Certain aspects of the current internet population still strongly resemble the state of internet adoption in 2000, when one of Pew’s first reports found that minorities, adults living in households with lower incomes, and seniors were less likely than others to be online.” More promising is Pew’s June 6, 2012 report that states, “As of April 2012, 53% of American adults ages 65 and older use the internet or email. Though these adults are still less likely than all other age groups to use the internet, the latest data represent the first time that half of seniors are going online. After several years of very little growth among this group, these gains are significant.”
Boomers have always been trend setters and many of us are dispelling the myth about old dogs and new tricks.
Author’s Note: This is the first of more posts to come on the subject of RTC — Resistance to Change.