I have an uneasy relationship with new technology. I have no desire to own an iPod, Blackberry or Tom Tom Go. I just recently started keeping my cell phone turned on most of the day.
At the same time, I realize that technology is changing and that I don’t want to be left on the side of the road lugging my typewriter and adding machine. My wise 20-something son once told me, “Technology will separate your generation from mine. People who don’t understand the new systems will seem old to those of us who do.”
So I’ve done my best to keep up. I don’t do it just to please Gen Xers. I honestly value the techno strides I’ve made. Three years ago I created my own Web site and I use it to promote and manage my private practice. I do most of my banking online. I love keeping tabs of friends and family on Facebook.
Still, technology is a struggle. It’s not my go-to mode. I’d rather be doing nearly anything else than fiddling with screens, applications or menus.
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But I forge ahead and conquer new technological arenas. Some I undertake because I have to. Hiring a new intern in my office requires that I know about State Disability Insurance and the Employment Development Department and how to report taxes and withholdings online.
Others make life much easier. Signing up for automatic bill pay saves me hours every month and avoids wasting paper. Turning on my cell phone means the kids can reach me when they have time to chat.
And I must admit that some of it has been fun. My husband brings his Apple along when we travel. Together we import photos from our respective cameras, sort out the keepers, e-mail pictures to family while we’re on the road and create a slide-show for viewing when we return.
Learning new skills also helps keep me mentally healthy. According to the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation, “mental exercise can reduce your chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease by up to 70 percent.”
Researchers recommend spending at least 20 minutes three times a week doing mentally challenging tasks, such as studying a new language, doing a crossword puzzle or, in my case, overcoming a technical hurdle.
I also feel good when I’ve finally figured something out. Yes, it may have been frustrating. No doubt it took time, patience and more than a few false starts. But in the end I feel victorious. I can do something now that I couldn’t do before.
That’s why I joined Twitter.
I had heard people talk about it. I knew that Ashton Kutcher had over 1 million followers. I wanted to master yet another form of technology. I didn’t want to be passed by.
As always, I hemmed and hawed about joining. I tried a few times but retreated, feeling overwhelmed. It took me weeks to fine-tune my site. Now I have a vehicle for posting articles and related musings. It’s one more way to spread my viewpoints and exchange ideas with readers.
No doubt there’ll come a time when I’m no longer interested in doing the technology tango. Certain gizmos won’t be worth the mental gymnastics that I must go through in order to master them. I’m already choosy about which I’m willing to spar with. Still, I’ll persevere as long as I am able. The benefits outweigh my trepidations and inherent resistance. I feel young and vibrant in so many ways. Keeping abreast of technology is one part of that equation.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a fax coming in on my wireless printer.
Tips for tackling a tech task
Feeling daunted by new technology? Try these tips to gain the upper hand:
• Go slowly. Most of us learn best in little snippets. Take your time. Enjoy the process.
• Break the task down into workable segments. Work on a problem for 15 to 20 minutes, then set it aside and do something else. You’ll always be fresh and focused. And you’ll minimize opportunities for angst.
• Learn from others. Talk to people who use the technology you’re learning. Take a class. Read a manual. A variety of informational resources increases your likelihood of success.
• Ask for help. Hire a techno-wizard or local teenager to do it for you. Who cares if you didn’t do it yourself? At least it’s up and running.
• Don’t get discouraged. It’s easy to feel angry and defeated. Take a break if you’re getting frustrated.
• Recognize that you don’t have to use it if you don’t want to. You may ultimately decide that this particular technology isn’t for you. No problem. It’s perfectly OK to throw in the towel and admit you can live without it. Tackle something else instead.
Linda Lewis Griffith is a local marriage and family therapist. For information or to contact her visit lindalewisgriffith.com.