A Blog by Jonathan Low


Jan 7, 2016

Tell-Tale Giveaways of the Technology User's Age

Complete sentences? With punctuation and grammar? Really? JL

Jonathan Margolis comments in the Financial Times:

What are the tells that make a speedy, clear, informative email the mark of advancing years? Well, the main one is that you are emailing at all.
Do you send emails in literate, properly spelt English, broken down into crisp, relevant paragraphs, signed at the end, even with the mandatory extra space inserted after each full stop?If you do, you are almost certainly old. How old? From a not hugely scientific study of everyone I happen to know, I’d say over 40, but more likely 10 years north of there.What are the tells that make a speedy, clear, informative email the mark of advancing years?
Well, the main one is that you are emailing at all. For reasons I fail to understand (but then I am quite old) most of my younger friends prefer the cumbersome, hit-and-miss messaging of social media sites, or to use fiddly phone messaging utilities such as WhatsApp. They reserve the directness and unambiguousness of email for writing to, well, old people.
Second, if your emails are in reply to someone else’s, any unseemly promptness will give you away. The young (ie under 40) may pride themselves on being quick about most things, but when it comes to electronic communication, an insouciant satellite delay of a few hours to forever seems to be not just acceptable, but cool.
It doesn’t mean, I have learned, that they don’t like you; they just converse when it suits them. Rather than conduct written conversations as a polite, if slightly geriatric, tennis game of lobs and returns, the under 40-or-so favours a style more akin to random teenage grunts.
So here is my 2016 guide to other age giveaways, aside from the email thing. You may choose to amend your techie ways and appear more up-to-date, or be old-tech and proud. I’m just saying.
•Bashing devices to stop them misbehaving. This hasn’t worked since about 1974, sorry.
•Shaking mobile phones when reception is bad. And shouting into them like old GPO telephones.
•Jabbing at touchscreens. For oldsters, buttons have to be pushed hard to make two contacts meet. They find capacitive touch, requiring a mere brush of the finger, unintuitive.
•Getting confused by Facebook — especially conducting private conversations publicly. “Hope all’s OK, how was the hysterectomy?”
•Signing posts on Facebook: “Love, Marjorie”. Also, writing long posts. Taking “likes” too seriously, and penning thank-you emails for all likes received. And sending affirmations: “If you hate cancer, like this.”
•Come to think of it, Facebook itself is mostly for the aged.
•Getting angry with incompetence. I tend to send furious tweets (see, I’m modern) to companies about stupidity on their websites. My children acknowledge that aspects of the sites are poorly designed but laugh at “Dad going off on one”.
•Unselfconsciously wearing Bluetooth headsets in public, unaware that you look like a minicab driver.
•Turning off electronics at night — a relic of when things like TVs would spontaneously burst into flame.
•Using British telephone numbers correctly. Old people know that giving a number as “020 7123 4567” or “07123 456789” is both correct and ergonomic. Younger people will say “07123456789” or, even worse, weird combos like “07 123 4567 89”.
•Giving your own number when answering the phone; this is so 1960, it’s amazing that hipsters haven’t adopted it.
•Using text language in texts. Young people would rather use a flip-phone than say ‘CU L8R’ like their parents do.
•Saying LOL in any electronic communication, ever. A report for Facebook last summer, The Not-So-Universal Language of Laughter, found that LOL is now used by only 1.9 per cent of us, with a Methuselahn average age of 28. “Haha” is how young people signify a joke. Still best avoided if you’re old, though.
•Being unable instinctively to tell reputable websites from dodgy ones — and being suspicious of them all.
•Finding it obnoxious when people check their phones and smartwatches in the middle of a conversation.
•Giving a damn about privacy. Young people don’t get this at all.
•Sorry, but back to email again: not attaching the attachment you say you’ve attached. Oh, and adding a PS to an email. Anything but that.
•Finally, using antique email companies, like Yahoo or, most disastrously, AOL. Getting an email from someone on AOL is like discovering they still sell tinned carrots in the supermarket. Which assumes, of course, that you’re old enough to know tinned carrots are no longer a thing.


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