Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Babyboomers and Technology

Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri ignited a flurry of rebuttal letters with her recent editorial suggesting that Babyboomers are far behind Millennials in their grasp and use of today’s technology. I have to agree with her critics. My children and their spouses are all Babyboomers.  All of them are very adept with the world of electronic gadgetry. They are my technical support. Without their help, I would never have mastered the intricacies of Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, webpages, and all the other technology I use daily in writing and promoting my books. 

Unless I can’t count, Bill Gates and Steve Jobs are both Babyboomers. So are Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas. The Internet was largely a Babyboomer invention, as were cell phones and videogames. Facebook and Twitter may be credited to the next generation, but I don’t know many Babyboomers who don’t employ them.  It seems to me that the difference between Babyboomers and Millennials is that Babyboomers use technology to accomplish their ends while many Millennials appear obsessed by it. Computer screens of one size or another consume a very large percentage of their attention.

Many Millennials appear both rude and impatient: rude because they ignore other humans around them in favor of an electronics device; impatient because they expect their every want to be satisfied with Internet speed.  Most Babyboomers are more adept at human interactions. My sister-in-law observed such behavior when she taught briefly at the university we attended earlier. In our day, students clustered in groups and enjoyed each other’s company. During her tenure as a professor, she observed most students crossing the campus independently, their faced buried in their cell phones.

You may notice that I use the words, “many” and “most,” in my discussion.  I’m trying not to overgeneralize. I would not say “all” to characterize any large group, for there are always exceptions to group patterns of behavior.

My generation learned patience as a virtue. One of my maternal grandmother’s favorite sayings was, “With patience possess ye your soul.” I’ll admit that I wasn’t a patient man for many years. Changing Navy duty stations every two or three years for decades, I learned what I termed, “calculated impatience.” When one is presented with a limited time to make an impact on one’s environment, too much patience can result in a lack of performance. Only with age did I finally conclude that my course was negatively affecting my relationships with others.  I learned patience to preserve those relationships. For in the final analysis, relationships are what count most in life.


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