THE BLOG
08/05/2014 06:34 pm ET Updated Oct 05, 2014

Help! I'm a Digital Immigrant!

Yesterday, we were informed that "selfie" has been added to the Scrabble dictionary. Today, we were reminded that many of our apps know more about us than we do and that they're all sharing all that data. This will come as no surprise to people a lot younger than me, but I'm still trying to adjust. I was born before the age of the smart machine, And there's a name for me.

Yes, it's true. It turns out there's a name for those of us who were born before computers became an integral part of daily life. Your grandchildren? They're digital natives. They were born understanding the finer points of tablets and smart phones. In fact, when you're confused about technology, the first step is to go find a ten-year-old. A digital native. If you're over fifty, though, you're a digital immigrant. You've come to a new country. You need a new vocabulary. You need to learn new customs and mores -- no, make that memes.

What does this mean? Well, I now know pretty much nothing. My professional association is updating the website. I've been told that this will involve wireframing and flat design. Huh? Luckily, the proposed designer knows what we don't know. She began with a definition of terms.

I called my coach today. She had just upgraded her phone and no longer new how to put me on hold. Yes, I was disconnected. I still don't know how to get things into and out of the Cloud or who actually sees what's there. I trip over the names of some of my devices. Apparently, my MacBook Air wants to be called by its full name. Who knew?

Last week, my desktop, an iMac, gave me the dread "your hard drive is fried" sign -- a circle with a line through it. I called and made an appointment with a Genius. I packed up this incredibly heavy machine, along with my back-up drive and Air (yes, I know) and, a bus and cab ride later, arrived at the Apple Store. After a two-hour wait (techno-fail -- my appointment was accidentally cancelled) I bellied up to the Genius Bar. Mr. Genius pugged in my Mac. It worked.

I asked the Genius to move a few folders to the smaller machine, since I'd been totally unable to figure out how to do this, packed everything up and went home. Plugged in the computer. Thirty minutes later, the symbol of doom was back. Why? Who knows. My brother, who had the good sense to get a computer-related degree, did a long-distance diagnosis and tells me my problem is dust in the vents. OK. Meanwhile, I'm using the computer in one-hour bursts and it seems to like that.

I appreciate technology. I rely on technology. I don't want to go back to those little pink message slips or snail mail as my only form of communication. But, still, I wax nostalgic for simpler times. I remember being able to revive my Dodge Dart by simply poking at the choke with a chop stick. It's the only car repair I ever mastered. I was so proud.

So what's a digital immigrant to do? First, simply remember that this is a strange new world. Learn what you can. Understand when you're in over your head. And keep a ten-year-old on speed dial.