The late, great Douglas Adams had a wonderful take on our reaction to technology as we get older:
- “Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works”.
- “Anything that’s invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it”.
- “Anything invented after you’re thirty-five is against the natural order of things”.
While there’s a hilarious grain of truth to this view, I can’t help but feel it’s incomplete. Is it really fair to end the list there? After all, 35 seems an alarmingly young age to close yourself off to new possibilities. Especially when life, as rumour would have it, starts at 60.
For most of us, the Internet falls squarely into the third category: something that comes later in life and changes the world we grew up with. But that hardly makes us anti-technology. It doesn’t stop us from embracing it; benefiting from it; becoming skilled at it.
Surely we can choose which of these three stages applies to us, regardless of age.
I wish this were a view shared by the job interviewers who never phoned back; by the grandchildren who still grab the mouse or iPad off me the second I hesitate.
The Internet is more inclusive than ever, and technology has never been more accessible. Yet there still seems to be an odd idea out there that it’s off-limits to us; that we don’t want to understand it; that we’re choosing to shun it. This attitude, not the technology itself, makes people feel useless and obsolete.
We’re not. We’re still here. We want to be a part of this. Just give us the chance.
Perhaps Adams, who sadly never got the chance to live into his 50s, may have found himself adding a fourth stage to his list in time:
You realise the world isn’t what you knew. But with age comes clarity of perspective. You see the whole idea of a “natural order” as a preposterous illusion. You shrug it off and decide to enjoy whatever you damn well please.
Hopefully, someday, the rest of the world can meet us half way.
How has the Internet changed the world you grew up with? Have you ever been made to feel obsolete because of it? And has prejudice ever stopped you from embracing it?