Are you “bad at technology”? Well then, you are bad at life.There, I said it.

When I hear somebody say “I’m bad at technology, can you do this for me?,” it makes me cringe. I cringe, not because the person who is saying this is a bad person or has ill intentions, but because I don’t think they know the message they are actually sending.

When someone says “I’m bad at technology,” they may really be trying to say “I don’t understand computers” or “the internet isn’t my strong suit” or “I don’t adapt well to change” or “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks”, etc.  To Generation Y and Z (essentially anybody under 30 years old), however, they are saying “I’m not good at life.”

How dare I say that, right?

I don’t mean that the person who is “bad at technology” isn’t a successful, well-liked, professional; I mean that to Generation Y and Z, the use of modern technology is so entrenched in everyday life that it is not considered a skill-set to be learned later in life – or something to be good or bad at (like chess). Due to the fact that the youngest two generations are digital natives, computer/internet literacy is not a new concept introduced in school: it’s learned from a very young age along with their mother tongue. Technology provides Generation Y and Z with an instant, and efficient, way to work, play, organize, express, share, learn, love, hate, and be entertained. So, the idea of “being bad at technology” represents more than just not knowing how to use computers. To these generations, being “bad at technology” means you are bad at almost every aspect of making your life work.

Don’t get me wrong, I remember the analog days (the end of them at least), but communication was  a lot harder back then. It was harder to stay in touch with friends, harder to keep your loved-ones up-to-date on what’s going on in your life, and harder to organize a social gathering. In those days, I would have to get on the telephone, plan during face-to-face meetings, and rely on hand-written schedules to make sure things got done. Now, I can simply share a few sentences on my social media networks and accomplish all of these goals in a matter of seconds.

I know that the statement “If you say you are not good at technology you are telling everyone under 30 you are bad at life” is contentious, and it’s meant to be.  I’ve used this statement in one-on-one conversations, group discussion sessions, casually in passing, and as an instructor at Algonquin College, and each time it starts an interesting debate about the role of technology in our lives. Some love it, some hate it, but after discussion, each side gains some insight.

Remember, technology moves fast –  Check out this interesting video of youngsters trying to figure out the purpose of technologies invented in the last 30 years. Are they “bad at technology” too?

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21 Responses to “Are you “bad at technology”? Well then, you are bad at life.There, I said it.”

  1. Oh, but wait! It gets better! Then they say “do you think technology is here to stay?”

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  2. I would add to this: Gen Y (and younger) accepts that technology skills are a basic skillset everyone has, and so there is also a danger of selling themselves short. For the first few years of my career (I’m 25) I was constantly asked in job interviews about my computer skills. I’m more or less as skilled as the average Gen Yer – in other words, I can do a whole bunch of things which the previous generation is really impressed by – easily figuring out programs, not needing an instruction manual to use social media sites, knowing how to do a fair bit of graphic design. But for a generation that still thinks keyboard shortcuts and the mouse are pretty neat inventions, I’m nothing short of a genius computer hacker. Gen Y: do not sell yourself short. Your technology skills are a HUGE asset when you are dealing with people over 35-40. (And that goes a long way when you are competing against older people who are more experienced in other areas.)

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  3. Enjoyed the video it will be interesting to see the changes in the next 30 years but each generation sees huge changes I saw many changes in my first 30 years the beginning of tv the jet engine space travel civil rights etc.

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    • Thanks for the comment, Wayne. It is amazing to think that the introduction of TV to Canada was as recent as the 1950s, and how far we’ve come from there in that medium alone. It will be interesting to see how the “information age” evolves.

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  4. The recent book, “Moonwalking with Einstein”, documents a time before the printing press when communication was all about the spoken word,story telling and memory. Books actually needed to be memorized in the Greek era and medieval times. It is very interesting that Socrates thought that the written word would remind men only of what they already know (Joshua Foer, 2011). There were very few handwritten books to reference, so books were studied and reread, and discussed. The printing press changed all that…does that pale in comparison to the advances in technology today? It would be interesting to know how many authors enjoy using technology to write and communicate… I knew a young poet who only wanted to write his poems by hand for the creativity involved but was freed and advanced by computer technology for organizatinal, research, writing and memory components.

    Technology and information is amazing and high speed…It brings the world to my house…I use it every day…
    …I would also suggest we preserve and understand time honoured traditions in the arts and science and mathematics. It is important to try to keep both approaches going…

    …and for those of us who find new technologies overwhelming, try taking the computer course twice to make the learning more automatic…

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    • Thanks for the comment, Pat. What really stands out in your comment is that we need to find a balance between established and new technologies. There is still a need for traditional media, and critical human thought will always be irreplaceable. One great opportunity of the “information age” is that we can now all be published authors of our own content. Social media is the engine that drives many conversations (like this one), and connects us with people around the world like never before.

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  5. Working as a social media manager for an organization with an employee base of various ages, I would like to add to this discussion that the “I’m not good at technology” attitude is certainly not always age or generation-specific. I have heard this type of statement from people in their 20’s and 30’s, and have watched happily as some of our “older” staff members have taken easily and comfortably to Twitter, instant messaging, blogging etc…

    Is it a way to delegate? A way to avoid extra effort? An attempt to simplify life? I’m not sure where the attitude comes from but I would have a hard time putting an average age on the people who have uttered this and similar statements.

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    • Hi Shannon,
      Thanks for the comment. You are absolutely correct, the “I’m not good at technology” statement is by no means restricted to a single generation. I think you may be hearing that statement as an excuse to get out of work is because it has been considered an “acceptable” way to get out of work for too long. If the younger generation see’s that this excuse works, why not use it? It’s not something I would do, or support, but I can see why they may choose to use it.
      On your other point. I agree, there are few things as inspiring a boomer making new technology work for them.
      Thanks again!

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  6. Great post David, thank u for saying it! :D Loved the YouTube video embed of those kids, lol.

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  7. David you raise a couple critical points in this posting: (1) The perception of technology in our lives from a generational standpoint and (2) the complexities which companies face with non-homogenous workforces. The first is interesting because Generation Y/Z have grown-up with access to some of the most advanced pieces of technology of our society, yet struggle to use it in productive/meaningful ways. Technology without instruction is nothing more than say… a fancy paperweight. This could be part of the differential which Shan pointed out. Older generations are actually some of the fastest growing segment of many social networking sites including Twitter, LinkedIn and the infamous Facebook. This cohort of established professionals is quick to adopt the technology when they can clearly define the improvement it brings to their work life balance. Before moving to the next point, I want to highlight that with all generational statements it is important that it’s an assessment of a trend amongst a group of people within a certain age group, there will always be variances.

    This is a perfect shift into the larger transition about never assuming people of any age know how to effectively use a piece of technology. The education and context is critical to anyone, even if you are a technologically adapt Gen Y/Z. I like the notion in the last paragraph that technology moves fast. There are old “Technologies” that are still critical in a functioning society. Not because there are not opportunities for new technologies but because the human capacity to think critically will never be replaceable. Thank you for taking on this posting and creating the tipping point required to move the discussion forward.

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    • Thanks for your input, Jeremy – much appreciated. You touched on a key point that may Y/Z know how to use the technology but may “struggle to use it in productive/meaningful ways.” This is where guidance through education can play a role. I see students each year “get it” when I teach them social media (especially my 2-hour module on Reputation Management). They need a little bit of leadership and before you know it, they’re really taking off in the right direction.

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  8. Should such broad statements be countered with equally broad statements? I sympathize with those who are ‘bad’ with technology. It’s not their fault. It’s technology. Don’t believe me? Look at a modern universal remote. Now program it to work your tv, cable, VCR (yes VCR because Gen.,Y and Z’ers shouldn’t be the sole intended target). People just want to turn it on, record, change a channel etc. Do you really need to buy something to hook it up to a computer to program it how to do that.

    Let’s talk computers. “I’m bad with technology” can (and should) be interpreted that they don’t understand.They know what a computer is. They have an inkling of what it can do – but how do you go about doing it? Have your ever seen the command strings for Linux to perform some system operations? Go ahead, explain /root to someone.

    “You’re bad at life”?! I know people who don’t “do” facebook THE flagship of modern social media and various technological inputs. How do they find out what’s going on? They TALK to people, sometimes on a phone, most times face to face (not facetime). They have conversations in a social setting and ask and respond with family, friends, neighbours, co-workers. THIS IS BAD AT LIFE?!

    Technology will ALWAYS race ahead. There will always be people who ‘understand’ it, but the majority of people will realize LIFE goes on. Need more proof? Can you fix a microwave? Can most people? Can they go out and buy a new one – oh heck yes. Can it then help them cook their food. Again, yes. Life goes on. What about a fridge? A car? A TV? A computer? We have technology looking at splitting atoms, looking for dark matter and finding subparticles. This matters immensely to how many people?! I don’t mean for the curious, I mean for the population, can you explain the NEED(?) to find sub-particles, neutrons, etc. and determine why there seems to be more matter than anti-matter? Life for 99.9999% of the population who don’t understand goes on, quite well, thanks for asking.

    It’s a shame that technology might just now be catching up. My mother “isn’t good” with computers but she’s freakin’ excellent with life. That being said, devices like the IPAD, maybe just the start. We’re dumbing down devices. You don’t need to save a file in My Documents, or click on My Computer to look for something. You want to play solitaire, turn it on and press that button. Want to watch old movies – press here. Suddenly, there is a device that now has enough technology built in that may reach that lofty goal – easy and intuitive. Suddenly, there maybe a chance that someone like my mother, who isn’t good with technology (but certainly good with life) can adapt.

    Let it be known, I am not supporting Apple in anyway. I’ll stick with Windows7 (and 8) and deal with frustrations of software and hardware updates and upgrades, but I will give credit where credit is due. The technology of the Ipad maybe the crutch people need to become not bad with it, but certainly a little better.

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  9. What a totally awful article. Biased and myopic to the point of it being farcical. Some people embrace change- regardless of their age or generation. Remember that not everyone sitting at a keyboard has experienced the same journey along the path to new technology. Having an aptitude for technology or being more comfortable with it does not make you better at life. That is a non sequitir

    I would never hire someone with a smug and naive attitude like yours. I speak four languages but would never say that because of a possible comfort with new linguistics that my life is any better or worse than yours. That would make me as silly as you. I may be ‘bad at technology’ but at least I can do mental arithmetic, spell and take minutes at meetings in manuscript when someone’s ipad does not work.

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  10. As one of those Y or Z groups I get it, all this talk about being tech natives. The truth is it is a stereotype, that I have grown to despise. I grew up on a farm in a farm town, I didn’t touch my first computer until I was about 9 or 10, I am 18 now. I can do the basics; word, powerpoint, Internet browsing, gaming, etc.. But I digress, I can do those but it feels alien, I struggle understanding what people do on demo videos. I have had to resort to more analog methods to get me through the daily grind until I can gain a better understanding of what is before me. I am more than willing to embrace it but it does not “click” with me. I have a smartphone and a laptop running windows 10 and they both confuse me greatly. I have friends helping me, one said that I wad practically illiterate when technology is involved. I have missed out on job opportunities in the past and am fighting to fix this issue. To conclude a long rant, those Y and Z people may not always be “bad” by choice

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  11. I’m under 30 and I don’t understand how any of this stuff is really making our lives better. I’m happier when I’m far away from it. Maybe less wealthy, maybe less “in” with the crowd, maybe seen as an oddball, but I’m genuinely happier. I get on the computer once in a while to check email and do some surfing (hence this comment), but I’m generally happier when I’m not spending time on this shit.

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  12. …and this is why I can’t stand tech yuppies

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