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Valley Views: Struggling to Keep Up

By Margaret Miller, a longtime Creston Valley resident
Columnist Margaret Miller is a longtime Creston Valley resident.

By Margaret Miller, a longtime Creston Valley resident

I recall a nightmare I had as a teen. My family was about to head off for a holiday but hadn’t told me. Excited parents and siblings piled into our family station wagon and started to pull away. “Wait for me!” I called. “I’m coming too but need time to pack.”

In our rapidly changing world, I sometimes feel like that unprepared teen, overwhelmed by new technologies and the vocabulary needed to navigate them. Blogs, AI, QR codes and chatbots. PACs and apps. The current tide of online misinformation is a worry and our increased reliance on the virtual landscape sometimes has me pining for the good old days.

It’s hard to keep up.

Of course, technological advances improve our quality of life. Family members have benefited from new medical technologies. During the pandemic years, online access allowed many of us to safely get stuff done: virtual workplaces and classrooms, connection via social media, online banking and purchases. And for those of us in rural areas, technology provides access to a world of information, entertainment and services.

But dealing with change can be confusing and any new tool is helpful only if it’s user-friendly, reliable and safe. These days accessing support via the phone can be a nuisance – long elevator music waits punctuated by “we value your service” reminders. Confusing go-arounds as we listen to automated instructions and decide what button to press. “Listen carefully as our options have changed. Press 1 if you’re confused, 2 if you haven’t got a clue, 3 if you’d like to turn back the clock.”

Yes, change is a given and these days it happens at breakneck speed. Need a phone app to complete an important task? Oops, your outdated device isn’t compatible. Time to update a password? Oops, 12 characters is not sufficient. Been on hold for 50 minutes? Oops, you called the wrong department. Please hang up and try again.

Perhaps, it’s my age. As a boomer I’m among those who have more difficulty dealing with change. I figure I’m coping reasonably well. I rely on Microsoft to write this column and WhatsApp to connect me with distant family. Emails and online banking are certainly convenient and generally trouble free. Generally.

And remember, lifelong learning is good for the brain. I know that. But like the befuddled teen in my old dream, sometimes it feels like too much at once. “Wait for me world! I need to catch up.”

In the 90s, my father-in-law had difficulty operating a cassette player. He lived in the Okanagan, so occasionally my husband and I mailed what we called talky tapes - cassettes filled with spoken news and the voices of his young grandkids sharing stories and songs. The new fangled machine baffled him. Perhaps he inserted the cassettes backwards, rewinding when he intended to fast-forward the tape. Perhaps the narrow tape snagged and tore. We tried coaching him by phone but gave up, relying on phone calls and letters between visits. I couldn’t understand his confusion; but now I’m starting to get it.

Technological change must be easier for the young. The Gen Z bunch – those aged 11 to 26 – have never known an internet free world. They’re techno-natives, not techno-immigrants like the boomers. They grew up with social media, screen swiping, and all things digital. Rotary dial telephones and analog clocks are quaint back-in-the-day gadgets to that generation and, like my father-in-law, our youth don’t hanker for cassette tape messages. Gen Z isn’t fazed by the virtual landscape and that’s a good thing. Cutting edge technologies will help them address (and hopefully solve) some of the serious issues facing our world.

There is more than one way to look at a problem, and that’s true here too. My difficulty with changing technologies is a First World problem. Online banking and shopping, entertainment platforms, credit card CVVs and chatbots are the concerns of the haves, not the have-nots. There are millions in our world who struggle with more serious issues like poverty, war and displacement.

Now it’s time to upgrade my access code for online banking. Take a deep breath Margaret. You can do it.

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