Anyone with any aptitude for technology has encountered this scenario, right? The Family Tech Support issue, where you’re stuck between just fixing their problem, whatever it is, and refusing to help at all and just screaming read the words on the screen over and over again until they either help themselves or hang up on you. And that last panel is always the end result of any of these conversations.
It’ll happen to you, too, they say, or maybe you think it to yourself. Sooner I’ll be relying on my kids to help me figure out why the clock in my ocular implant is always blinking 12:00 over and over again, or I’ll need my son to point out to me that the reason my touchscreen “doesn’t work” is because I won’t just touch the thing and insist on stabbing at it with the tip of my finger like I’m hitting a key on a manual typewriter.
Lemme change the subject for a second.
I have six tattoos, and I’ve been fighting the urge for a seventh for the last few weeks– in fact, I’ve woken up a few times in the last few weeks convinced that I was going to go get another one that day. When I got my first one (and this was 20 years ago now) I heard from my parents exactly what every other person my age heard from their parents.
“What are you going to do when you’re 80 and you still have that?”
And here’s the thing (and let me be clear, I’m not talking about my parents specifically here; this is a widespread cultural phenomenon): when people ask you that, they’re suffering from a weird sort of blind spot: they’re thinking of old people now, who are comparatively less likely to have tattoos unless they were in the Navy or something. When I’m 80– which, good luck, fat boy– I will console myself with the knowledge that probably 70% of the rest of the 80 year olds sharing space with me in the nursing home will also have tattoos. It will be normal. Yeah, they’ll all be saggy and blurry and faded. So the fuck what? It’s not going to be weird at all. 2/3 of people my age have tattoos and we will still have tattoos when we are old.
Let’s talk video games. When I was a kid, playing video games was a thing For Kids. The notion that there would ever be jobs connected to video games was considered ludicrous; video games were a thing that we were all going to Grow Out Of, and they’d stay a Thing for Kids forever. Why? Because in the late eighties the Nintendo was a Thing for Kids.
I’m 40 and still playing video games, and I suspect a fair number of the people who were playing Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out with me are too. And I suspect a lot of those who aren’t are likely out of gaming because of reasons unrelated to maturity.
So, I ask you: how likely is it really that people my age are going to have to be calling our kids to get basic tech shit explained to us in 20 years? In ten, when my son is 15? What exactly is going to change about me or the way I look at the world that’s going to cause me to lose the ability– or, more importantly, the desire, because that’s actually the salient difference here– to figure new shit out, other than actual dementia?
Nothing. It ain’t gonna happen. Will there be some aspects of technology/Future Life that I’m not going to get? Sure, but that’s because of youth culture, not because of the tech itself. I don’t know what the fuck Tumblr is for, and I don’t really get Snapchat, but my confusions are more of the why would you want to do this variety rather than I need this to make my life work, please show me how to use it.
At 40, I’m about as old as you can be and still claim to be a “digital native,” a phrase more likely to be applied to millennials than people my age. But I grew up with this shit, and the upbringing my son is getting right now is really not that different from my own childhood. My first home game system was an Atari. I had a Commodore 64/128 that I used to dial into local BBS systems over a 300 baud modem. I spent so much time on BBSes that my parents had to install a second phone line in my bedroom. I had a cell phone in 1995 or 1996, way before most people had them. I still tend to be an early adopter in a lot of ways and my affinity for tech stuff is a key part of my personality.
And all of this is just supposed to go away at some point, when I have to start calling my son for tech support? When, exactly? When am I going to stop being myself, absent some sort of literal mental deterioration?(*) It’s not going to happen. This is just as much of a canard as Old People Don’t Have Tattoos or You’re Going to Grow Out of Gaming.
Or maybe I’m just hugely immature. I dunno.
Somewhat unrelated contention: I hate the phrase “Generation X” and always have. Gen Xers are older than me; I’m not one of them. Millennials are younger than me and I’m not one of them either. You may refer to my generation as either Generation Star Wars or Generation Nintendo; they both work as far as I’m concerned.
The clearest sign of whether you are in my generation or you are a millennial is this, by the way: if Pokémon was part of your childhood, you are a millennial.
(*) I am, and I hope this is obvious, not suggesting that people who aren’t good with technology are suffering from some sort of disorder. But if it were to happen to me, it would probably be a sign that I needed to go see somebody. That’s all I’m saying.