Don’t Speak to Me in that Tone of Voice

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This Wrinkled Wisdom column is titled Don’t Speak to Me in that Tone of Voice.  It’s that condescending tone the younger generation uses when responding to the dumb questions we inevitably ask about technology.  True.  We’re behind the curve on this one.

And, no wonder!  The vocabulary of technology is mind-blowing.  Young people in the field can’t even explain what they do for a living in a way we can understand!  Check this response to a question we asked.   “When application size exceeds memory, it causes excessive paging and context switching, which degrades performance.”  Huh!??  We know the meaning of the individual words.  But, as a whole, we haven’t a clue what was said.

Does this tone of voice tick us off?  Yes!  We’re not stupid.  But, hey, we didn’t grow up with computers.  We grew up using manual typewriters, watching Howdy Doody on black and white televisions, and talking on rotary phones.  I know.  It’s unbelievable to kids today, but we shared our telephones with other families.  They were called party lines.  Hmmm.  Now that we think about it, these phone lines were an early version of Facebook.  You could listen in on others’ conversations…sort of like having “friends.”

Heck, the first computers took up an entire room.  The first “mobile” phones required musculature to carry.

And, while we do care when our computers go on the fritz, we don’t give a darn about most new or upgraded technological innovations.  Have we become adept at technology that improves our lives? Absolutely.  Do we care about Twitter, Snapshot, and the “cloud, whatever that is?  Not so much.  That’s not true.  We don’t care at all.

Heck, most of us don’t even have Facebook pages!  On this, we’ve got company.  Middle schoolers describe Facebook as dead to them.  It’s so cool to be trendy.

Most of us jumped on e-mail, but that won’t even get a response today.  Is it so hard to hit “reply”???  Guess so.  Now we have to text and try to decipher acronyms and emoticons that are so small we can barely make them out with our glasses on!  Geez, no wonder employers are rolling their eyes at grammar and spelling mistakes in prospective employees’ resumes and cover letters.  Young people rarely use a multisyllabic word and many can’t even write their name in cursive.

But, hope is on the horizon!!  Reportedly, more dating sites’ users today give “hotness points” for correct grammar and punctuation usage.  Prospective dates better know the difference between “their,” “there,” and “they’re.”  We are happy to provide a tutorial.

And, think about the downsides of technology.  More people are dying from taking selfies than are killed by sharks.  Okay, zillions of people are taking selfies and few run into Jaws, but, still.  Oh, and forget selfies with elks.  There have been so many instances in which people have gotten gored in Colorado that the state actually issued a warning about elk selfies.  Guess Voltaire was right.  Common sense is not so common.

And then there is texting and driving, which, as you may know, really ticks us off.  Ah…but we forget.  New self-driving cars are in the works, though self-driving is a misnomer.  Really look forward to that.  The car accident depicted in AT&T’s commercial for its campaign—It Can Wait; No Post Is Worth a Life—is really powerful. They might target their audience better.  Maybe run the commercial prior to zombie movies?

Experts continue to evaluate the long-term effects of all this electronic stimuli.  Will it have an effect on kids’ attention spans?  Will it make kids impatient since technology responds quickly and efficiently, if not always truthfully?   Is communication a lost art?

Kids have even mastered how to look someone in the eye and type on their phones at the same time…a skill honed in classrooms.  Love the IBM professional who coined a new meaning for the accounting acronym CPA that describes this talent as “continuous partial attention.”

Just look around while eating in any restaurant.  Is face-to-face conversation a thing of the past? Kids have lots of “friends,” but are not developing friendships.  Conversations with eye contact that stimulate empathy and intimacy are reportedly on the wane.

Why spend the money to go out for dinner if conversation is dead??   Some creative, young people have a unique approach to avoid using phones while socializing.  Phones form a pile in the middle of the table.  The person who reaches for his or her phone first must pay the bill.  We like it!

With all this technology at our fingertips, we hoped kids would master the art of writing thank-you notes, for which we have previously advocated.  We get it that handwritten thank-you notes have gone the way of those bulky yellow pages in this digital age.  We would be ecstatic to receive a thank-you via e-mail or text.  Or, how about just picking up the phone?

So, our wrinkled wisdom for today?  If you too are the brunt of that tone of voice, we have a suggestion for defusing these potentially tense occasions.  Instead of saying “screw you,” agree on a code word to indicate that you just sensed condescension.  We suggest “snafu.”  Houston, we have a problem.  But remember, while we might not like their tone, we sure need their tech talents.  And, with family, those talents accrue to us for free!  Also, we advise trading in your cell phone for a smartphone.  Learn to text even if you have to use a magnifying glass.  E-mail is now considered “elderly mail.  Don’t show your age!

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