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Technology Can Make You Younger! or how not to act old around a computin’ machine

April 18, 2010

No, this isn’t about those new anti-aging face creams with micro-currents. But it is related to how technology can make you look younger — figuratively at least.

Ever noticed how when young people are trying to do something on a computer that takes several steps — such as sending an email with a link or attaching a document — they move their cursor quickly all over the screen, searching and clicking, clicking and searching? They go by instinct and if they click on the wrong thing, they just abort and move on.

My IT guy does this, too, while I usually stare slack-jawed.

Me? I look around for just the right icon, usually while arching my neck so I can peer through the correct prism in my progressive lenses. I’m not about to waste all that energy.

Then, one day, while a student was looking over my shoulder as we worked on a class project, I found myself sweeping across the screen as though I were a video game master, clicking here, closing and opening things there, hovering for just a second, click, click, nope, yep, well that didn’t work, here it is, yes, that got it. I was showing off, I realized later. I was acting. In a flash, I had been transformed from Angela Lansbury in Murder She Wrote to Angelina Jolie in Lara Croft, Tomb Raider. Or, at least that’s how it felt, as I wielded my mouse like a rapid-fire weapon.

That’s right, a big part of being up on the new technology is swagger — being able to pretend you’re up on the new technology. Haven’t you caught on yet that the first thing your IT gal does is re-boot the machine? That should tell you that she really doesn’t know what’s going on but hopes the computer will resolve the issue on its own. The next step is clicking around and seeing what happens (and never being able to replicate whatever it was that fixed things).

The second biggest part of looking like you’re technologically younger and hipper than your years also involves acting, but it’s more in the style of Angelina’s better half, Brad Pitt. It’s all about the cool factor — pretending that whatever gut-quivering error message you just received when you went to save a day’s work was really no big deal. It’s part of the secret handshake of binary code, which sees operating systems as a bit organic. The IT folks are forever saying the network isn’t feeling well or has been temperamental today, poor thing. You want to see temperamental? But, now, now, if you want to seem young, the appropriate response is one of laid-back nonchalance with an overwhelming confidence in your abilities to recover your lost document.

Ahem. Well, the point of this is not to rant to the patient and talented IT people but to reveal the social and generational interactions that surround our use of technology. Truth be told, it has been my generation that has led the way in digital media, and my mature colleagues are more knowledgeable about electronic networks, code languages, media platforms and social media, as well as the social, political and historical ramifications of the current information revolution than the young people they teach.

But young people, not having ever lived in our once static, totally analog world, are more comfortable not knowing, if that makes sense. They explore technology at will and move forward without angst, understanding that if they click around enough they’ll either figure it out or they won’t.

So, if you want to instantly look 10 years younger, use digital technology. It works. All it takes is a bit of bravado and cool detachment. Oh yeah, and lose the bifocals.

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