Enough with the "older people don't understand tech" stuff already. While we may not have held a smartphone in one hand and our Sippy cup in the other, all the evidence says that those post 50s who want to be tech-savvy, can be. And for the rest of you, here's our list of 10 things you seriously need to learn how to do so we can bury the myth once and for all.
1) Send photos that you take on your phone.
Smartphones let us share our lives in real time. In case word didn't reach your cave, nobody needs to drop off a roll of film at the drugstore and wait five days anymore to see their vacation photos. The ability to snap a photo of the dress you are trying on and ask a friend what she thinks is just, well, really cool. Posting to Facebook or emailing someone your first vacation Margarita beats postcards that arrive two weeks after you get home. Embrace this miracle, don't run from it.
2) Decipher texting shorthand.
IMHO, R readers are gr8 bc they <3 HuffPo. TTYL.
3) Work your GPS app on your phone.
While many are imperfect, they are better than most car GPS systems that haven't been updated since you rolled off the dealer's lot. One challenge is that you actually have to learn how to work your phone's app. Do you prefer directions to be spoken aloud or to appear on your screen? Do you really think you can follow a map on a four-inch screen while driving?
4) Tame autocorrect.
Autocorrect "guesses" what word you have started to type. Sometimes, it guesses wrong and the results are pretty funny. But you can teach autocorrect which words you regularly use. Here's how it works: When you type something your iPhone flags as wrong, it suggests a different word. The second time that you reject the phone's suggested word with the same word, the iPhone understands and adds it to the dictionary. It's not called a smartphone for nothing.
iPhone just autocorrected "I'm leaving now" to "I'm lesbian now". Which is an awkward thing to message to your husband.
— Anna Dorfman (@doorsixteen) July 5, 2011
5) Maximize apps and devices for easier living, not just playing games.
You can track your eating and exercise with an app; we live by Fitbit and MyFitnessPal. You can use apps for tracking business expenses -- take a photo of your restaurant bill and email it directly to the expense people. There's an app for keeping track of your prescription refills, for making free calls from overseas, for well, just about everything. The trick here is to find out about them and the easiest way to do that is to just google. Or better yet, ask someone.
6) Set your privacy settings on Facebook.
Sure that's a little like trying to nail jelly to the barn door and it would be a whole lot easier if they didn't keep changing things on us. But if you are going to post on Facebook, it behooves you to know who gets to see it and how they can use it. The simplest rule is just to never post anything you wouldn't want the world to know, but quite honestly that isn't good enough anymore. By piecing together bits of information about you from various online activities, your identity is vulnerable -- never mind that a prospective employer might look askance at some of the groups you like. We found this primer helpful, although given that it was written a month ago and this is Facebook we're talking about, it could be out of date.
7) Watch TV on things other than the TV.
Television shows have moved to our mobile devices. We can watch them when we want, where we want -- in little snippets while we hang at our kid's soccer practice or in catch-up binges when we are snowed in. Your DVD and TiVo are very much yesterday. With Hulu, Amazon Prime, and Netflix -- not to mention cable and network programming available on your phone and tablet, there is a whole new meaning to "appointment TV." We set the appointments. Being able to manage your time is priceless; don't reject it. Making it even simpler is Chromecast -- a USB stick you plug into the TV that allows you to use your mobile phone like a remote control; just pull up Netflix on your phone or Youtube, and "cast" it to the TV wirelessly.
6) Open your social media world beyond Facebook.
OK, you're enjoying Facebook even though you haven't actually mastered all those ever-changing privacy settings. And maybe you've even logged on to Twitter. But you are missing out on a lot of other social media networks where people are hanging out. Check out Pinterest and Instagram. We've been enjoying some discussions over on newcomer, State.com where people offer opinions on anything they want, generally civil. The question comes down to why are we doing all this, spending so much time with virtual friends? Every answer is different but we see it as expanding our horizons. Mind you, we don't give our newfound virtual friends our credit card numbers, but for the most part the engagement is lively and interesting and beats what's on TV -- no matter where you watch it.
7) Speak to Siri.
Voice-activation is one of those hit-or-miss deals. It's great fun to tell Siri "I'm hungry" and have her show you the nearest 15 restaurants your location, even if seven of them are fast-food places. But Siri sometimes has a hearing problem. Speaking slowly helps. So does knowing when to pull over to figure out where you want to eat.
8) Know who prefers texts over emails over FB messages over tweets.
We have many many ways now to reach people who want to be reached. If you don't get a response, consider it intentional. Remember how liberating it was to own a phone answering machine? You could pretend you weren't home, or better yet, you could pretend that the machine didn't record the message properly! If you text someone and they don't reply, there is no dog eating their homework. They just didn't want to.
9) Use an online calendar.
Online calendars have replaced little yellow stick-em notes. You enter in all your appointments, meetings, lunch dates with friends, social obligations then merge it with the kids' school calendar, add phone numbers, addresses that you can later GPS -- and voila! -- your life is organized. You can set it to remind you of appointments by email or text. Everyone in the family can enter events and conflicts become apparent. Online calendars may be all that comes between us and insanity some days.
10) Use caution where you go and know you are always being watched.
Wherever you go online, you drop cookies. Cookies are like footprints; they are digital markers -- text strings -- showing which sites you've visited. They are frequently used to target which ads later come your way. So if you are sharing a computer with say your husband and all of a sudden you start to see ads for divorce lawyers and dating services, it might be time for a conversation. Just sayin'.