While carrying out vital online research in my coffee break today, I was struck by this piece about people who have made a decision not to use the internet. Apparently, many of them are over 50 years old, in other words my age group and upwards.
The reasons for this boycott fall into two categories. First, they think internet use will take over their lives, destroy family life, lead to giving up all worthwhile activities and turn them into three-headed monsters. OK, I made the last one up, but for many people who don’t use the internet much or at all, there seems to be a misconception that the magic interweb is actually a drug. Sorry guys, it’s a communications device and avoiding it in the 21st century makes as little sense as your grandparents refusing to have a telephone in the house.
Second is the group who struggle with using computers, or who are terrified by the very idea, and I wonder how much of the first defence is really due to this. Of course acquiring any new skill can be frustrating, but complaining that the programmes aren’t oriented towards a certain age group or that the keyboard isn’t big enough is utterly bonkers. If you can still drive, you’ll have no trouble learning how to send e-mail or booking your flights online.
It’s also very selfish to decide to drop out of the digital revolution, unless you want to be a hermit. People who think Facebook is the work of the devil are still capable of getting upset if I don’t tell them what I’ve been up to once in a while. It’s particularly frustrating when people won’t engage with the possibilities the internet offers for campaigning and fundraising. Why on earth should a cash-strapped charity send out funding appeals by post and take donations by cheque, when e-mail and Paypal cuts costs?
I was feeling very smug and ready to conclude that oldies should get with the programme, when I started to think more widely about my use of technology. The first time I discovered the internet, I had to be dragged off the computer after three hours, but I don’t own an iAnything or a DVD player. I keep my phone turned off for days on end and won’t Tweet. The idea of an electronic book reader makes me shudder.
So perhaps use of technology is more about assessing what you need in order to do what’s important to you. I still find it hard to believe life is better without the internet and e-mail, but if someone decides that’s the case then I’m going to have to shut up and think about my own preferences. The real issue, of course, is the increasing exclusion of people of any age who can’t afford to make these choices.