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For boomers, there is no such thing as keeping up with tech change

When boomers are 84 – there will be no keeping up. Just the same as when they are 64.  Many boomers disagree with that statement, finding it insulting or pessimistic or both. They will repeat plaintively that baby boomers are very different than their parents’ generation. They are comfortable with technology. See how many have smartphones! They text, use Facebook and YouTube.  Many book travel online, read TripAdvisor reviews, and even call for car pickups with an app!  So what’s the problem? Tech change is occurring faster than boomers at 64 or 84 will want to use. Groups of people who used to participate in one social network will leave in 11 million-at-a-time droves and without explanation.  And, as with Facebook, the departed will include your children and grandchildren who left to use Instagram and Snapchat. They will leave without notice – the social network equivalent of changing a phone number – with parent/grandparent only learning about it when they tried to place a (now-obsolete) phone call. Eventually they will also leave those tools behind, and so on and so forth.

Facebook users and the company did this to themselves – and that trend will repeat. So Facebook’s popularity helped young people create oversized networks (1000 Friends who Liked things!).  The news feed became unwieldy, and that was just among the people they actually sort-of knew.  Advertisers got wise to micro-targeting ads. The news feed began to feature so-called 'targeted' echo-chamber news for the demographic of you. Ah, but the news turned out to be, uh, less than trustworthy. The 170 million fake profiles made an impression, along with dark post advertising (no, not the Russians) which boosted the numbers. But not a problem other than pro forma apologizing, since Facebook’s market cap has just passed $500 billion.  The firm became a bit defensive about over-counting advertiser video views.  But that too passed. Meanwhile its own company Instagram, a smartphone photo album, has become an advertiser darling, predicted to bring in $2.8 billion of (now-Facebook) ad revenue in 2017. Or maybe $4 billion. Meanwhile, did grandma -- who was looking for photos of kids, grandkids, and the dog on Facebook -- receive news of the change? Not likely, given Instagram’s user age profile. Is Grandma a Technology Luddite? Maybe not. Maybe she is just unaware of the change in tech habits of the family.  Perhaps older adults should just wait it out until all that is guaranteed to be left is email?  And spam, scams and fraud?  

The accidental transition to Technology Luddite has nothing to do with Facebook or Instagram.  Or Amazon -- and the loss of book or hardware stores. Or Netflix -- and the long slide down of movie theaters. Or cars with drivers, or even owning a car, never mind getting into a self-driving bus.  And older people are not a desirable demographic, even though they apparently have all of the generational wealth. Consumers naturally enable this ever-more-convenient change, whether it is the mandatory auto-play of video, or the switch to marketing via Twitter and Instagram (because teens like them).  Marketers want younger consumers. At some point, the previous era is done, and it is on with the new.  Why post a picture on Facebook when Instagram can get it there in a Linked instant -- and Facebook still receives all of the ad revenue? What's so bad if the user can start all over with a smaller, more controlled invited network, leaving that old, clumsily-large network to languish with no activity really left to Like.  

In the end, the only tech that matters for older adults is tech (re)training.  For older adults who want to stay connected to their tech-fickle family, making the effort to stay current matters most. That means training, whether through AARP, OATS, SeniorNet, Oasis, Senior Centers, libraries, or device stores.  Trainers, whether in the store, at the community center, or on the road need to be up to speed on demographic shifts. If last week's class was about viewing Facebook photos, maybe next week's class adds an overview of what the younger family members might be using now or in the near future. And next year's training will be different again. Same with online shopping, movie viewing, and alternative search tools.  



Thank you! Technological hubris can be a problem for every generation. Glad to know I'm not the only one noticing it with the boomers.



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