How to stay current with technology

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You may have seen the video of the adorable elderly couple trying to take a picture on their computer. Or the episode of Modern Family where Jay couldn’t understand the difference between clicking twice and double clicking.

I’ve heard stories from my call centre friends about customers who’ve washed their computer monitor in the dishwasher or tried to use their mouse as a foot pedal.

Old people and technology. I used to laugh at these stories.

And now I’m one of them.

I know this because we recently got my daughter an iPod Touch for her 8th birthday. And she started requesting a million cool apps that I had never even heard of.

I mean, I can build a functional website and I can Photoshop a mean pic, but I just can’t keep up with new media or the technology that supports it.

It’s not that I can’t figure out how to tweet or set up a Facebook account. It’s that I can’t keep up with what’s current, with what’s “on fleek.” (Is that right? I still don’t know what that means.)

An embarrassingly short time ago, I was complaining to my sister about how I hated all of the ads and games on Facebook — I just wanted to keep in touch with people and creep on their photos. “Try Instagram,” she said. So I downloaded the app.

Then I saw her again. We took a selfie together. “Post it to Instagram so that I can see it,” I said.

“I Snapchatted it,” she replied. “It’s gone.”

It turned out my childhood dream of living in the technologically-advanced world of Inspector Gadget  — complete with tablet computers and smart watches and messages that self-destruct — had finally come to fruition. And here I am, too slow on the uptake to enjoy it. Because even as I write this, I know that Snapchat is old news.

I should have seen this coming. After all, I still don’t know how to take a proper selfie. When my son was four, our selfie-taking skills were on par.

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Since then, he has far surpassed me.

Ok, I’ll admit I’m a little proud of my inability to take a good selfie, like it’s proof that I’m not a narcissist. But it’s not just the selfies. It’s everything. And I feel rebellious about it, like I just don’t want to learn new things. I like my pen and paper. I like my books. I like not knowing what people ate for dinner, or whether they’ve done their laundry, or what they look like with the superimposed face of a dog or sitting in their car on their way to work.

But truth be told, there are people much older than me who are social media gurus, who are masters of technology. It’s not my age that holds me back. It’s my state-of-mind. And I really don’t want to be left behind.

I could say it’s about keeping one step ahead of my kids so that I can keep them safe. But really, I just don’t want to look like an idiot in front of them. I don’t want to be calling on them for help with my virtual reality headset or self-driving car in a couple of years. Right now, they think I’m smart. I’d like to keep it that way.

So I will covertly follow their lead when it comes to  staying current in this increasingly connected, technological world. Here’s how kids do it.

Make new friends

Young kids are usually really good at making new friends. Somehow, this skill gets rustier the older we get. We fall into friendship ruts, and tend to stick with people who make us feel comfortable (i.e. people who know about as much as we know).

But if you want to find out what’s cool in the world around you, you have to expand your network and make some new friends. Young friends. Friends who are nerds or computer geeks. Friends whose interests are different from your own.

Look for early adopters — the people who embrace new technology, who are continually trying out the next big thing. They’re the ones lined up outside the store the day before a new gaming system is released or, better yet, the ones who’ve pre-ordered. They’re the ones at work pushing for cloud-based services and live streaming, while you’re bitching about managing your email and trying to figure out how to dial in to the conference call.

These are the people you want on your friends list. Find out what they’re excited about and why, and how you can learn more.

Be curious

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Kids are constantly asking questions. You give them an answer, and they ask another question. “Why? Why? Why?”

“Because!”

It’s enough to drive a parent crazy, but kids don’t care. And you shouldn’t either. Ask your questions. Don’t worry if they expose your technological naiveté or your social media awkwardness. The only thing worse than asking a stupid question is not asking it.

If you’re really afraid of looking like a noob in front of your peers, there’s always the anonymity of the Internet to fall back on. Thanks to the Internet, I just learned that “on fleek” means “on point”, although when it started it had something to do with eyebrows.

Google doesn’t judge. If you can Google, you’re golden. And if you can’t do that, well, now you know where your learning should begin.

Just play

Children (and animals) learn through play. It’s a critical part of their development.

I think that kids pick up technology fast because they aren’t afraid of it. They aren’t scared to break the rules. They don’t worry about doing it wrong, or (gasp!) breaking something. They just want to have fun.

An adult (such as myself) will look at an unfamiliar icon and think, “I don’t know what that is so I’ll just leave it alone.” A kid will tap it to see what happens. If you’ve ever watched a toddler navigate an iPad, you know this is
true.

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The ways we communicate with each other and interact with our environment are changing. The old ways still exist. In many cases, I believe they are arguably better. But I want to be the kind of person who keeps an open mind to trying new things, so I’m going to make a concerted effort to embrace more of the new.

I may end up the butt of some call centre employee’s joke. I may become an example of what not to do. But I’m not going to stop trying. I’m not going to stop learning. And maybe I’ll even have a little fun.

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