I can still recall how unabashedly we’d shake our heads whenever some widowed old lady strolled into our Radio Shack store asking if we could please change the batteries in her portable AM/FM radio. “My husband always took care of that for me,” they’d explain apologetically. Of course, we always obliged, although somewhat dismayed. Afterward, the same conversation between us young technology sales reps always ensued. “How does she not know how to do something as simple as changing the batteries in her radio?”
Looking back, now some 40 years on, the answer was apparent, the question rhetorical. Couples roles were much clearer defined back then. The husband, the breadwinner, was assigned to protecting and providing for the family while his wife, the homemaker, ensured that there was both physical and emotional sustenance in a clean and comfortable environment. For all intents and purposes, this model served mankind quite adequately throughout millennia. Not perfect mind you, but functional.
This well-entrenched paradigm began to shift gradually, post World War Two, starting with the generation known today as the Baby Boomers. Simply put, newfound economic prosperity resulted in a wide array of modern and innovative products being brought to market. These leading-edge goods and services boastfully promised to make peoples lives more entertaining, more fun and most importantly more convenient.
In response, demand for these commodities grew exponentially. This, in turn, resulted in a perceived need for additional household income. As a result, women began entering into the workforce in droves leading to the slow yet inevitable erosion of the traditional family unit.
Now, I am not here to debate whether this slow decay was a good or bad thing but to quote Victor Hugo, “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
Nowadays, many people long for what they sentimentally deem to be the “good old days,” when in truth, it’s just the natural progression of life. To rail against such change is akin to swimming upstream against a strong current. Eventually, you”ll just get swept away.
There is a name for this type of thinking. Psychologists refer to as “Golden Age Syndrome.” The exaggerated belief that something (politics, news, morals, daily life) used to be substantially better than it is now, usually expressed with bitterness about the present condition.
Paul, the pseudo-intellectual in Woody Allen’s heralded movie Midnight in Paris, may have been a bit harsh when proclaiming, “Nostalgia is denial. Denial of the painful present. The name for this denial is Golden Age thinking – the erroneous notion that a different time period is better than the one ones living in – its a flaw in the romantic imagination of those people who find it difficult to cope with the present.”
Personally, I don’t think this is the case in most instances. For many, I believe it’s merely fear of the unknown. No one likes to feel inadequate or unintelligent, so it’s easier just to avoid the things we don’t comprehend so well. Factor in the extensively documented antisocial behavior associated with technology and one can readily see how these people reinforce and validate their avoidance.
Either way, it can be argued that such short-sighted thinking is indeed a fool’s game. The parents and grandparents of us baby boomers and GenXer’s had a lot less at stake than we do. Life back then stumbled forward at a much slower pace. The same tools, implements, and methods that had hitherto well-served several generations were still just as functional in their day and age.
Take household chores for example. Prior to companies such as Eureka, Dyson, and Roomba a simple hand made broom would be passed down from generation to generation. Any change was slow and measured, almost imperceptible.
Currently, we live in an age light years from that oft slow paced world. Technology is moving forward at breakneck speed. So rapidly, in fact, that new products are being intentionally held back in order that companies may recoup their initial R&D investments. It’s a slippery slope we now find ourselves on, and it won’t be abetting any time soon.
Herein, lies the potential problem. Willfully ignoring technology will inevitably result in a myriad of negative consequences as one moves forward in life. Think of those same old ladies I initially spoke of. Now mentally expand time out and step forward 10, 15 or 25 years. We aren’t just talking changing batteries now. Those same like minded people will struggle ineffectually with the simplest of operations.
Cellphones are replacing landlines so rapidly that soon it’ll no longer be financially feasible for telecom companies to support these outdated networks. How will these people communicate with family and friends then? How will they make a doctors appointment, call the pharmacy or book travel? God forbid they experience a medical emergency. If cell phones are beyond their capabilities then certainly a laptop or tablet will be as well.
Even now, household appliances are integrating WiFi while, at the same time, incorporating a slew of other Smart technology. You’ll have to know how to effectively and competently operate all of this technology if you wish to accomplish the simplest of tasks such as cooking, washing your clothes and/or watching television. Cameras? Well, you can just forget about taking any pictures for posterity. Sadly, that ship has already sailed for a lot of baby boomers.
Presently, I still sell electronics and encounter these technology deniers daily. They vainly frame their resistance to technology as somehow being a just cause or noble rebellion against the inevitable. They are only kidding themselves.
To those embracing technology, I applaud you. As for those of you lagging behind, Louisiana State University business professor, Leon C. Megginson, streamlined Charles Darwins On the Origin of Species in the following manner, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”