I was eating an individual-sized bag of chips the other day. When I finished the bag, I flattened it out and turned it over to read the content on the back before I threw it away. Beneath the box that told me how many calories I'll have to burn off later were two small but familiar logos, logos that seem to be everywhere these days. One was a small blue square with a white, lowercase "f" in it. The other was a lighter blue square with what looked like a pregnant robin about to sing in the later days of spring.
And I thought to myself, "Wow, even my Doritos bag is tweeting now."
Like it or not, technology is becoming more and more integrated into our lives. And whether you are someone who stands resolutely outside of its Borg-like assimilation, scoffing at the rest of us who are seemingly buried in our smartphones and tablets all day, or whether you are someone who stood in line outside of Best Buy to get the latest version of the iPad (guilty as charged), the current reality is this: We are becoming more familiar with and more dependent on technology. Period.
We could debate the merits and faults of a world like this, but I'd rather talk about how to best navigate in today's technological world.
First, avoid substituting a familiarity with your audience for a familiarity with your technology. Simply because you know how to tweet and post a status to Facebook doesn't mean that you're connecting with anyone about anything important. Social media only work if you're actually connected to your audience. And it is still true that most of those connections can really only be formed the old fashioned way: personally.
Second, use technology instead of being used by it. As a modest geek it pains me to say it, but it is nevertheless true: Technology suffers from the disease of overpromising yet underdelivering. It's good and useful, but never nearly as good and useful as its marketing seems to indicate.
It's easy to get so wrapped up in what technology promises and in the experience of using it that you become the one being used rather than the other way around. Hours of productivity and precious dollars can easily get sucked up into the vacuum of the latest version, the next upgrade, and the mystical, problem-free world that will magically come into being as a result. Fight the ever-present technological gravity by periodically unplugging. You might be surprised that the world somehow, someway still spins, even when you're not pushing the buttons.
Finally, stay relevant by staying conversant. In today's tech-savvy world, you simply have to do your best to keep up. You don't have to be an expert in everything. But if you want to be able to communicate with your kids, your customers and your community, you'll have to spend some time on websites like Wired, Engadget, Gizmodo, and TechCrunch (and yes, even Facebook and Twitter). Otherwise, you'll quickly find yourself drowning in a sea of foreign terms and unfamiliar references, resulting in a crippling loss of credibility and resentment for a world that has passed you by.
Let me leave you with a challenge from Seth Godin - one of those boomers who has become a significant voice in the age of technology. In one of his recent blog posts titled "When did you get old?" he writes:
"At some point, most brands, organizations, countries and yes, people, start talking about themselves like they're old.
"We can't stretch in that direction," or "Not bad for a 60 year old!" or "I'm just not going to be able to learn this new technology." Even countries make decisions like this, often by default. Governments decide it's just too late to change.
"The incredible truth is this: It never happens at the same time for everyone. It's not biologically ordained. It's a choice. It's possible to put out a hit record at 40, run a marathon at 60 and have your 80-year-old nonprofit change its business model. It's not as easy as it used to be, but that's why it's worth doing."