Catching Up With Technology: A Dinosaur Learns the Ropes

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I am dreading it. It’s going to be confusing, frustrating, overwhelming. I don’t have time. I’m probably going to screw it up. I’m not looking forward to it, but I have to do it. My name is Vanessa and I am a Twitter virgin.

Yeah, yeah, it’s kind of silly, right? I have a college degree and at a few times during my widely varied life as a member of the almighty work force, I’ve actually earned a living doing “internet stuff.” At one point, during the first e-commerce boom, I felt like I was actually ahead of the curve and even somewhere close to the forefront.

I remember once as a twenty-something, my decades-older boyfriend watching in awe as I typed away on my pre-wireless satellite internet connection between bong rips and MP3 selections; he marveled in amazement at my technological dexterity. I was working from my home office! I was making money while getting stoned in my pajamas! This was freedom!

Yup, I'm old enough to remember when this was the cutting edge of technology

Yup, I’m old enough to remember when this was the cutting edge of technology

Some years later, the same boyfriend – now an ex and well into retirement – fondly recalled that I “wrote code while dj-ing and getting high,” as if I was some kind of groundbreaker, and in some sense I suppose I was, though that lifestyle seems pretty commonplace in 2014. I didn’t bother correcting him about the fact that I was not really writing code but simply adding a few basic html tags here and there – it felt kind of cool to be seen as some kind of genius in a world that was totally alien to him, because in all honesty, it’s pretty alien to me, mysterious and charming.

For whatever reason though – likely almost a decade spent in a career that had nothing whatsoever to do with technology – I’ve fallen behind, woefully so. When I bought a new vehicle a few months ago, I was dismayed to realize it didn’t have a CD player. For the first time in years, I’ve been listening to the radio a lot.

Yes, I know that I could get some kind of system that would allow me to play my own music while I drive. I think it might have something to do with my smartphone, though living in the country, I don’t get reception during much of my driving time. Does this mean I need one of those satellite radio things – otherwise known as another bill each month in addition to the smartphone, the land line, the home ISP? I think maybe I could just get some kind of cord that would turn my just iPhone into an iPod or something without an internet connection, but honestly, I don’t remember my Apple password, I hate customer service phone calls, and the thought of actually going into one of those technology shops makes me shudder. I spent 8 hours in a phone store once, trying to convince a teenaged salesperson that yes, my Dad had actually died and I wasn’t faking his death in an attempt to end his almighty mobile phone contract. I’m not anxious to go back there again.

The eTrade baby ad campaign doesn't seem so far fetched when you see today's toddlers kicking the new knowledge.  Photo: Olga/Олька

The eTrade baby ad campaign doesn’t seem so far fetched when you see today’s toddlers kicking the new knowledge. Photo: Olga/Олька
Photo: Olga/Олька

So, like a number of 40+ folks, I’ll probably ask a friend’s kid to help me get music in my vehicle. The kids are shockingly good at it. When the iPad first came out, it didn’t make sense to me at all, but my 2-year-old nephew was quite adept at finding cartoons and games. I do foster parent respite work, and a 2-year-old girl I recently cared for would gleefully shout “Elmo! Elmo!” every time she saw my laptop. My continued amazement that today’s toddlers are so wired makes me feel old and overwhelmingly out of touch.

As someone whose friends are mostly around my age though, occasionally I am seen as a “computer expert,” which amuses me to no end. Last night, a friend called to see if I could help her with her new website, one of those template deals, which required a headshot photo of 400 Kb or less. She had absolutely no idea how to resize a photo, and she was freaking out. I’m sure there’s an easier way to resize an image, but my use of photoshop made me an ingenious computer guru in my friend’s decidedly non-technological eyes.

Photoshop is pretty cool, and I use it almost daily to manipulate images I use as a jewelry designer. Truth be told though, I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing – it takes me hours to create images your average wired 5-year-old could probably do in a matter of seconds. Photoshop is pretty klunky and not especially intuitive and for all I know, there might be something easier out there by now. But really? I’m too old and tired to find out. So I continue to tinker with a user-unfriendly interface, plugging along and doing my little thing, sometimes wanting to throw my ancient laptop off a high building. At least my non-photo-resizing friend still thinks I’m cool and hip to the new media.

I can only imagine how my brother feels – he actually does know some shit about computers, and I bug him all the time to help me when I get stuck. As a college business major back in the day, my brother invented eBay – seriously, he did, and not in an Al Gore-inventing-the-internet kind of way – he did it for real.

It was a term project for some kind of college business person class, and the assignment was to create a business plan for some novel new type of venture. It was the mid-90s and internet commerce was just starting to be a thing, though of course it was mostly just porn in those days. My brother’s idea was to have an online auction site, where people around the world could post the junk they wanted to get rid of, and other people around the world could bid on it. Totally eBay, right? He got a D on the project – his professor told him that no one would ever buy stuff from people they didn’t know on the internet. Seriously. I’m not shitting you here. And yes, it sounds ridiculous now, but that old lack-of-foresight-and-resistant-to-change professor reminds me a little bit of, oh I don’t know…Me?

Dinosaurs are cool, right?

Dinosaurs are cool, right?

Truth is, I’m a dinosaur, an old dog who’s reluctant to learn new tricks despite the possibility of receiving meaty bones in the form of fewer work hours and far less frustration. In the world of internet manifest destiny, I’m that old crone waving from the shore as the boat of wired-ness sails off without me.

After all, my two jobs – writing and making jewelry – are ancient and noble callings. The mummies were buried dressed in all kinds of necklaces and earrings and bracelets, their stories hand-written on the walls of their tombs. In addition to being a jeweler and a writer, I am also an expert procrastinator, as evidenced by the fact that I am writing this story rather than just figuring out how to do a damn tweet, or whatever the kids would call it.

There is so much more I could write about here: how I resisted Facebook for years, the fuckery of internet news stories, the fact that I am surely missing the next boat just like I missed the last one. I could turn this article into a 1,000 page thesis, and procrastinate indefinitely – there’s certainly no shortage of material and the research is literally at my fingertips.

The internet, however, doesn’t wait. The tweets need tweeting. The news on the website I edit isn’t getting any newer. Traffic is waiting, but it won’t wait for long.

So I’m going to make myself a giant pot of coffee, leave my pajamas on, and descend into the Twittersphere, or whatever the kids are calling it these days, before the traffic ship sails.

Bon voyage – wish me luck.