If you are reading this, I already know one or two things about you. Firstly, that you are (probably) over 60. You are (probably but not necessarily) female, and lastly, that you at least have some grip on technology.
And a lot of us spend a lot of time there. I could not now live without email, the web, YouTube, online banking and shopping, booking train tickets and the odd streaming service. I could not publish my books without a good deal of knowledge of technology. I communicate with my friends mostly online because I’m not that keen on using the phone. Nowadays, it seems intrusive, I feel I almost have to ask permission to call someone.
I do know people who don’t own a smartphone or use the internet at all. I have absolutely no idea how they manage their daily lives, but they obviously do because for the most part – I assume – they have chosen to live that way. These are the people nowadays who I would argue are being discriminated against.
They are the people who find it difficult to buy a train ticket because so many ticket offices here in the UK are being closed. They are the people who rely on actual bank buildings and post offices because they do all their banking in the old-fashioned way, face to face, and banks and post offices are disappearing fast.
They get off their backsides and go to actual shops to do their shopping. Moreover, they don’t spend/waste half their time scrolling through social media.
Who aren’t so glued to their mobiles on public transport that they fail to notice the elderly/infirm/pregnant person standing right next to them who could do with a seat. Who use old-fashioned printed maps to find their way around, so if their GPS fails or gets confused, they can still figure out how to get to their destination. Who aren’t so totally plugged into something-or-other as they walk down the street, they can still hear the birds singing.
Even men! (Well… ) I cannot figure out Google Maps for the life of me. I was standing in the middle of a six-road junction in Elephant and Castle recently (in London) figuring out how to find a theatre and the helpful Google lady told me to ‘turn left’. Eventually, I found an actual person who knew exactly where it was and – well, Bob’s your uncle!
Of course, it does. I could not publish or publicise my books without it. I could not submit my tax return or transfer money to and from bank accounts without it. All freelancers have to have some kind of techie knowledge, if only to know how to create a website or use social media.
So they say. But does it? People seem to be working longer and longer hours these days, and it’s not clear whether productivity has increased accordingly. That could be because the time they are saving online is being diverted, also online, to endless scrolling through cat and toddler videos (or are they called reels nowadays?) on social media.
I cannot be the only person who feels tempted to vent my frustration with a ‘computer that says no’ (a reference to a character in a TV series called Little Britain) by committing violence on something or someone – anything or anyone.
If you’re of the generation who were not taught these things, you pick them up – or try to – as you go along, in your own random way. Hence the frustration. There was a time long, long ago when pretty well everyone understood the machines and equipment they used. Car owners knew how to fix the engine and change a tyre. Nowadays you need a degree in IT to do just that.
And how to find it on my phone. He knows his way around my phone better than I do. Should I be worried? Probably not. I can’t wait for him to be old enough to act as my tech advisor.
The author and her bête noire (Sketch by Anna de Polnay).
What frustrations do you have with technology? How easy is it for you to get around the internet and various apps on your phone? Do you think technology has made our life easier or to the contrary?