"Are You 45?": The Technological Barriers of Age

By Glenn
From the OYIT Vault:

The technological problems I encounter in my day to day life are legion: cleaning out copious amounts of sugar from my car's gas tank, figuring out how to fit a three ponged plug into a two pronged hole and using a finger nail clipper in an unorthodox way without voiding the warranty. These are simple problems because they have to do with simple machines. They existed before I was born and will plague our society long after I'm dead. What really concerns me are the technological problems of a much different nature. The internet, computers and cell phones are god's three great gifts to humanity and the people who can't embrace them in the exact same manner as I do are forty-five years old.

Not a day goes by without me asking a friend or colleague, "are you 45?" I don't mean to be hurtful, but it's the only way I know how to succinctly and hurtfully point out someone's lack of technological prowess. Jake coined the phrase and I take no credit for its inception, only its integration into my rhetorical repertoire. He had been trying to explain to one of our twenty-six year old friends the logic and practice of a group chat on Google. After being met with a handful of one word responses, he finally threw his arms up in the air (metaphorically only, as he would need them to type) and asked if this clod was 45 years old. From there, two stars were born: Clod successfully wrote an award-winning play about how things were simpler before computers and the polio vaccine while I finally had a way to encapsulate my frustration with an older generation, its sympathizers amongst my own peer group and the mindset that resists new technology.

Twitter - with the controversy and confusion it has caused - is a perfect test of age. I'm not standing here, atop my pile of money earned from the dot.com boom, and trying to say that everyone needs to use Twitter. I recently joined the exclusive "1000 Tweet" club but I know at least 30% of those messages were simply the word "tweet." Simple, ironic, stupid, funny, thought-provoking and callous, I treat Twitter the same way it treats me: as a source of inspiration. If you don't understand Twitter, you're 45 - and that much is quite clear. But those who DO understand Twitter yet dismiss it as "stupid" or "just like a Facebook status" sail well past the 45 year old threshold and into a much darker place.

Everything technologically new is "stupid" when it first arrives in our lives, like an American military unit landing on the beaches of Normandy. "This technology is here to kill us!" you cry out while trying to dissuade anyone from walking to the beach to see what all the fuss is about. Those who ignore the words of warning are treated to the richest rewards life will ever offer: sending 140 character text messages to several people at once, checking the weather forecast on a cell phone, or inviting your best friend to a "I Might or Might Not Be Able To Find 1,000,000,000 Agnostics on Facebook" Facebook group. Those who shit on Twitter now join the chorus of history's rascals who shat upon personal computers, the internet, bag phones, cell phones, smart phones, email and social networking sites. They stand, forty-five years old, in opposition to all that is new and all that will bring our world from the cusp of extinction, not lead us towards it.

The 45 year old mentality means you don't know how to have a Google chat conversation with someone. The 45 year old mentality means that while you may create a Facebook profile, you don't join any groups or ever update your status in a meaningful way. Being 45 means if you receive an email that confuses you, you pick up the phone to call someone instead of just replying. If the New York Times multimedia article explaining a 1040 tax form was that important, I would have called you about it FATHER. Instead I emailed it to you because it was - like social class - only tangentially relevant to our lives.

If you have a cell phone but cannot conceive of how to use text messaging, you are 45 years old. Aside from the cure for cancer or the creation of HIV by the American CIA, texting is probably the greatest creative advancement made in the past 100 years. Whether you type "you" or "u" is irrelevant, the fact that you can let an incoming caller know you're in a movie without whisper screaming at them is a gift no one can take from us. The under 45 crowd can ask and answer questions in a matter of seconds, while the 45 and above brigade thinks if it's important enough for Bil Keane to draw in Family Circus it's important enough to call about. It's not. The difference between the text "today jeffrey ran everywhere while grandpa watched" and the actual phone call to describe the color scheme and mimick the characters' voices could be the difference between life and death, or at least the difference between enjoying life and being bored to death. I mean no personal offense to Bil Keane, especially given the subject matter of this article. He was, after all, renowned for being the first cartoonist on Twitter and his courageous use of Tweets in Family Circles have probably pulled numerous adults and fair-humored persons from the precipice of 45-dom.

I genuinely want my peers to understand and embrace technology. My blackberry, and the constant communication it facilitates, has given me a love that no woman can - not because she is inferior, but because she cannot provide me with an RSS feed for Taegan Goddard's Political Wire. Instant messaging is simple, fun and keeps you in contact with people you cannot see on a regular basis. While my addiction to chatting on the internet no doubt degrades my life and the lives of those around me, is it more degrading than a once close friend's failure to use email? Without it, our ability to have shared experiences is fatally wounded. He doesn't even know this website exists because I haven't had the heart or patience to write a postal letter to him describing what a "blog" is. Don't let yourself drift apart from the ones you love by falling into the technological abyss of being 45 years old. It may seem inviting in its authenticity and the way it relies on face to face contact, but that abyss is dark, gets awful cell phone reception and operates at the speed of a 14.4K dial-up modem.


  1. This is the most brilliant piece of writing on technology since Marshall McLuhan and the guy on gizmodo who bought the iphone.

  2. Outside of my confirmation and repeated negative HIV test results, this is the only thing I have ever been proud of in my life.

  3. I like the picture where Glenn punches the computer!!

  4. It's a good thing I had my camera ready when that happened! Then again, it's not the first screen Glenn punched. He also decked my TV after we watched "He's Just Not That Into You."

  5. I love this post. It's one of Glenn's best.

  6. it may be redundant, but yes, i love this. depending on my mood, the end may or may not make me tear up.