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Inspirational Silver Surfers

Many of us assume that the younger generation are automatically better at using technology than the older generation. However, a recent study from an academic journal revealed that the younger generation, (the ‘millennials’) are not actually any better than their parents.

The technology spurt

We would be in the playground, having a great time popping our Purple Ronnie Nokia fascias on and off, deciding which text messages would make it to the top ten inbox maximum, then boom — Twitter, Snapchat, Instagram Stories, hashtags. The tech world exploded and some of us got left behind. Whenever I think I’ve caught up, everything moves on.

The gap between my generation and the one that followed — Generation Z — is increasingly large. I’m slowly being outed as a grandma; I don’t feel like a digital native. I was raised on a Nokia 3310 and Pokémon cards. I accidentally joined a chatroom when I was 14 and living in Newcastle that, as it transpired, was a meeting place for young members of London gangs, but generally my online presence has been limited. I can manage the basics. I’m on Instagram. I can use the office printer. I technically have Facebook. I’m just not very good at any of it.

When it comes to social media, managing to not look stupid is hard. There’s so much new vocabulary. The first time I said “meme” out loud — as casually as I could — it came out in a French accent. I do try to feign competence. The few times a year when I tweet, I’ll jiggle the shoulders, exhale and channel blasé cool — but still they come out about as naturally as a nan’s text messages.

My generation is probably split because of when we were born. Some of us are rejecting new technology because we’re bad at it, but others seem to live their lives through their smartphones, which makes me sad. I am always dismayed when friends start Snapchatting pictures of our group in the bar, mostly because I am not one of those (usually slightly younger) women who can pretend they didn’t know they were having their picture taken and are really good at “oblivious sexy side-face”, while I’m captured on the other side of the table looking like Edvard Munch’s Scream. And then the whole world sees it. Or do they? I’m not even sure.

The older generation and social media

The first thing he did when he moved was tweet a picture of a squirrel

I bought a smart TV when my ex-girlfriend moved out last year because I realised that she owned all the technology in the house bar the toaster and radio. She was in a critically different age bracket — three years younger. She didn’t really understand the purpose of a radio and would tap at it in a puzzled way. I can sort of use the TV now (I can find Netflix), but I also feel sure it can do many things that I have no idea about. The same goes for my smartphone.

My parents, on the other hand, are actually great with technology. My dad has Facebook; he WhatsApps, shares and FaceTimes. The first thing he did when he moved to Canada was tweet a picture of a squirrel. When I was travelling a few years ago they really got into Skype. My mum would give estate agent-like tours of whichever room she was in, opening and closing the fridge door — eyes to camera, lifting out the milk: “It’s semi-skimmed.”

Silver surfers

I just want everyone to talk to other people in person. Eyeball to eyeball. I reviewed a gig several months ago with an audience full of teenagers. They were Snapchatting everything and live-streaming songs. I tried to blend in, but when I opened the camera on my phone to take a video I turned on the front camera and could only see my own giant, thumb-like face looming into shot. Someone nearby gasped.

Nokia has reissued the 3310 (it now takes pictures, but is otherwise just for phone calls and texts) and I’ve been considering going back to it. At least that way I will never again feel the dread that comes with the notification: “Your phone is due an iOS update.”


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