Are You Afraid of Technology?

“I’m not a techie.”

Have you ever said that? Do you ever think it? Do you compare yourself to folks who seem to have their smart phones surgically attached to their thumbs, typing 75 words per minute on a teeny keyboard, and wonder how you’ll ever measure up? Do you see Twitter superstars and Facebook mavens burning up the Interwebz with their tech savvy-ness, and think you’ll never be able to achieve the same?

You’re not alone.

There are lots of people out there who are hesitant to embrace technology. It sort of makes sense, especially if you’re 30 or older. After all, we’ve had to grow into all these new-fangled devices. Heck, I’ve been around since before voicemail and fax machines, and before pocket calculators were mainstream. Nowadays, we’ve got smart phones and tablet computers, word processing software, graphic design tools, digital video and content management systems. It’s natural to be a little overwhelmed. Add to all this the fact that things are changing so fast these days, it’s hard to keep up. The iPod has ONLY been around for a short 10 years. YouTube has only been here for 6 years. At this pace, who knows how many new tools and technologies are going to appear in the next few years? It’s moving at lightning pace, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

So what’s a luddite to do?

Be a Little Bit Scared.
Fear is the great motivator, and what better way to get on that horse and start accomplishing things than if you’re at least a LITTLE afraid you’re going to be left behind? Here’s a story:

When I graduated from my 2nd time at college in 1997, I’d just come through a very intensive course that gave us an amazing foundation in the design and creation of digital media, but a course that only gave us ONE DAY of HTML and web design training. You see, the Web was only starting to have the inkling of becoming a big deal at that point, and the college curriculum hadn’t quite caught up yet.

So, here I was, with a piece of paper and a handful of skills that were already out of date. Every employer wanted Web skills, and I didn’t have them. I got my first job offer, and believe it or not, it was to teach web site design to a group of corporate communications types. The course was in 6 weeks. I could have turned it down, saying that I didn’t know enough about the Web, let alone have the confidence to teach it. But I don’t like to not know things.

Instead of walking away from the opportunity, I went out and bought up every book on HTML, JavaScript and web site design I could find and I spent the next 6 weeks solid learning everything I could. I built a bunch of web sites, broke them good, and rebuilt them again, over and over and over until I got it. Six weeks later I was standing in front of a class of 20, scared out of my wits, but successfully showing people the ins and outs of building a good web site (by 1997 standards, that is.)

Fear was my motivator. Instead of telling myself I wasn’t technical enough to learn to code a web site, I used my fear of the unknown to drive me to learn it. Was it hard? Yes, it was, especially because I am not and never will be much of a coder.

Don’t let your fear of the technology prevent you from leaping into it. Don’t be afraid to break stuff (in fact, break lots of stuff. It’s the best way to learn). The more you do, the more confident you’ll become, and then you can move ahead and let the next thing up the chain scare you.

Be Infinitely Curious.
Curiosity may have killed the cat, but we’re not cats. What’s the difference? Cats, as clever as they can be, don’t often have the most common sense in the world (at least mine don’t). We humans, on the other hand, have the ability to have common sense. If you choose to use your common sense (because it IS a choice!), then you can be curious without being too risky.

What this means is, you probably shouldn’t start poking around the code of your company web site unattended, just because you’re curious and want to overcome your fear of technology. But, you could make a copy of your site on a test server, and then poke and prod and break things to your heart’s content over there. It doesn’t mean that you should use a big client project with an imminent deadline to improve your video editing chops, but it does mean that you can make a copy of some of the raw footage and spend the weekend after the project is signed off fussing with it in Final Cut.

Be curious about things. If you don’t know something, or don’t understand it, but want to, then find out. Google is your best friend. So is the library, if you’re old school. Read things. Try stuff. Play around. Figure it out. That’s really half the fun of learning something new. You’ll not only be wiser and more confident for it, you’ll have a sense of accomplishment that will only serve to motivate you more.

What To Stop.
Stop saying you can’t learn it. Stop saying you’re not techie enough. Stop saying you’re a luddite. You can embrace technology as well as the next person, if you’re willing to face your fear and reconnect with your sense of wonder about things.

Technology is a beautiful, wonderful, glorious thing. It’s something to be celebrated for how it has enriched our lives. As for what the future holds, nobody knows. But that’s nothing to be afraid of, right?

[photo by zetson]

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