M y mom’s voice revealed her fatigue with a computer that wouldn’t work right. In previous calls she’s told me about her desire to “hop off the technology train.” I admire her ability to stay on it, and told her so. At 42, I am weary of the seemingly endless queue of online revolutions.
I know people my age, and younger, who opt out altogether. Why even fool with Facebook and other social media? With arcane hipster terminology, privacy concerns, and questionable benefits, the techno-life, as the latest field of operation in the emerging digital culture, seems to offer more to eschew than to embrace. One friend laughed the other day about a stadium fan’s t-shirt, with a downturned thumb, that read, “Not on Facebook.”
I even went through my own off-the-grid phase in early 2011, when I was sick of Apple’s forced obsolescence, in which all of my Apple computers and devices more than four years old are strategically devalued in both form and function.
In spite of the hassle, I continue to ride the technology train. Here’s why:
1. My job necessitates it.
You may think this doesn’t apply to you, but it does. Even if you’re not on social media for work, and don’t need to be, every job relies on technology. A lumberjack who sticks with the trusty axe will eventually be sent out to pasture by woodcutters savvy to chainsaws and earth shaking harvesters. The younger generation is not beholden to your tools, and if you don’t keep up, you will eventually lose touch.
2. I love my kids.
My nine-year old started blogging a month ago. It is perhaps his first true obsession in life. He is asking me how to incorporate a business, how to sell ad space, how to handle SEO, how to manage multiple blogs. I am annoyed and wowed by it, and doing my best to respond with respect and coaching. He’s passionate, and if I don’t have answers for his technological questions, he will go elsewhere to pursue his new hobby.
3. I am not a critic.
Organization communication theory calls them “Y” managers and “X” managers. I call them “Yes” people and “No” people, based on their first response to a new idea. Perhaps you know some of each. While many respectable people have criticized new technologies, such as Plato’s concern that writing was a step backward or Oliver Wendall Holmes’ concern that the stethoscope would lead doctors to false diagnoses, it is the easy road to compare the maturity of an old idea with the immaturity of a new idea. I’d rather side with those in the trenches, working out the new thing.
4. I view new technology not as a perpetual series of annoying changes, but as part of a singular epochal shift in communication systems.
In spite of marketing hyperbole at every new competing app, we don’t have a revolution each business quarter. Rather, we are all part of the single birth of a new digital future, the fourth major communication era after orality, writing and mass print. Each shift takes generations to mature. The first generations have no idea what’s going on. Marconi thought his new “wireless telegraphy” was best suited for individual communication, and had no vision for the radio broadcast, which by connecting local communities created the basis for the “global village” in which we all now live. Early IBM never saw a market for computers in homes. New forms of communication don’t come with user manuals, and are prone to dismissal or attack.
Consider writing: Greece used awkward papyrus scrolls. Rome introduced codices which were easier to hold but didn’t contain chapters, varying cases for letters, punctuation or spaces. Early printed books were unwieldy and incredibly expensive. Most of the great writing achievements didn’t appear until 150 years after the press appeared: the King James translation, Shakespeare, Newton’s Principia Mathematica, Locke’s Essay Concerning Human Understanding.
With this long perspective, I see communications and marketing, graphic design, film and video, and social media as four subsets of an emerging digital culture, which in the future will be referred to in the collective. My mission in life is like Caleb to scout ahead and help guide the church to this digital destination.
Technology is a worthwhile hassle.
What is your experience with new technology?