On being … for your own good

By Ingrid Sapona

I’ve written before about the fact that I’m not an “early adopter” of technology. Indeed, I come from a family that, at times, actually seems averse to technology. Touch tone phone service was around for at least a dozen years before my parents made the switch. Dad’s rationale for not going with that new technology was that he saw it as just a way for the phone company to charge an extra $2/month. Even after automated phone systems – which rely on touch tones – became the standard for most businesses, we hung on to the rotary service. Dad knew that with most such systems you could simply wait on the line if you didn’t have touch tone, and wait he did…

Over the past 10 years or so I have come around to certain types of technology because I’ve seen how it has revolutionized how I do business. Given that I’m a writer – which is still centered on the simple act of putting words down on paper – the fact that I can even make that statement probably sounds odd. But in terms of work, technology has changed my life – all for the good.

When my Dad was sick back in the early 2000s, for example, if I needed to spend time at my parents and I had work to do, I had to pack up and schlep a ton of files and take them with me. At some point I could reduce the amount I had to carry because I could work on their computer and I could take stuff back and forth on floppy discs. Those eventually gave way to jump drives with lots more storage space. Each of those leaps made life easier but I still had to be pretty organized and anticipate what I’d need. The biggest game changer came when I started using Dropbox, which allowed me to retrieve things remotely.

In my personal life, however, until recently I’ve not been quite as open to technology. At some point in the past year I began rethinking my attitude toward technology. Yes – attitude… for I now see that I’ve actually had a bad attitude when it comes to adopting technology. I think there were many reasons I had that attitude. I’m sure part of it was attributable to the learning curve, part of it to the cost, and part of it relates to the view that there’s nothing wrong with the “old” way of doing certain things. My change of attitude is also attributable to many things. But, it really boils down to the realization that embracing technology is “for your own good”.

Here are a few recent examples that have led me to this conclusion. Last week I was looking into whether we could get groceries delivered to my mother. I was thrilled to find a grocery store near her that delivers. (It’s a small, three store chain – none of the bigger stores in her area have this service.) But, to place an order you do so through an app – you can’t choose the items on-line or over the phone. So, on the one hand, it’s terrific to find this service, but on the other hand, to access it you need a certain level of technology that she doesn’t have. Fortunately, she can tell me what she wants and I can place the order through the app on my iPad.

Another example occurred when Mom and I went to get her taxes done. She hadn’t yet received all her tax slips in the mail. But, they were available on-line and, luckily, she has a computer and printer so I could get them immediately. As a result, we were able to complete her return the day I was there. On a related note, while we were waiting at the tax clinic I heard one of the preparers explain to someone that one form he needed is only available on-line. Apparently the IRS used to mail it to him, but now you have to download it. While it seems wrong to me that the IRS has gone that route, the reality is that there’s nothing we can do about the IRS’s decisions. Hearing that made me realize that at some point in the not-too-distant future, the IRS may go completely paperless and we’ll just have to adapt.
I imagine maybe you’re thinking I should have titled this column: resistance is futile. Well, there’s an element of that, I suppose. But if you look at it that way, you feel defeated. Instead, my change of heart (and attitude) comes from finally believing that when millions of people embrace new devices or technologies, it’s not because they’re trying to be cool, or trying to impress others, or because they have money to burn. It’s because the technology makes their life easier or better. The ability to order groceries for delivery, pay bills on-line, and visit with Mom daily via Skype, are just a few examples of how technology has benefitted our family.

Mind you, I don’t think it’ll be easy to try to keep up. I know that many people’s main exposure to new technology comes through their work and through kids (or grandkids). Given that I’m self-employed and don’t have children, I do feel I’m at a bit of a disadvantage. But, I’ve got friends who are genuinely excited about technology and who are early adopters, so I’ll be fine – as long as I embrace their help and the technology!

© 2016 Ingrid Sapona


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