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An eighty-year-old woman provides her perspective about the relationship between technology and the younger generations.

 

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Dear Bracha,

I enjoy your articles immensely. Keep up the great work!

Recently I attended an event for my five-year-old great-grandson. As the children were singing on stage, nearly every parent was filming the performance on their smartphone or video camera. Only I and a few other older men and women were completely present, soaking in the moment without distractions.

It saddened me that instead of focusing on their children and their performance, the parents were capturing it in pixels for later. It got me thinking about the world we live in, and I’d like to share with you what the new tech sometimes feels like to someone of the older generation.

Many of the gadgets my children and grandchildren give me remain unused due to their complexity. While I have a smartphone, I struggle to take full advantage of it. I type slowly. I have difficulty differentiating between spam emails and real ones. I am grateful for my smartphone and the ability it affords me to keep in touch with others. I use it mainly to communicate with friends and family. I rely on other media like radio and TV to get news. I shop in big box stores for my basic needs. I don’t have social media. Most of my daily interactions take place in person.

My grandchildren do not get their news from the same sources as I, nor do they shop in the same way as I. To me, it seems like nearly everything in their lives is done online. They tell me it saves time and makes life easier for them. And yet, they still do not have time, and seem more stressed than ever, despite employing cleaning help and childcare.

My grandchildren’s workdays are never ending. There is always another email that must be answered, another message that requires an urgent response.

My great-grandchildren rarely play with toys. When they visit me, after the hugging and the nosh, I notice their eyes wander to their phones or their parent’s phones. They want to watch a video or play an online game. I’ve purchased toys for them, toys the toy store salespeople claim are popular with kids today, yet the screen holds a bigger appeal to them.

Worse, I watch how they interact with their parents. There seems to be a lack of eye contact as their parents focus on the screens in front of them, and they seem to be competing with the screen for their parents’ attention.

Don’t get me wrong. I’ve learned to adapt to this new world. I try to text my grandchildren rather than call them since they prefer it, and I gift them with electronics because I know they will appreciate it most.

I’m not complaining. I’m grateful that I can see videos of my grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and that technology affords me with the ability to stay connected to them regardless of their geographic location. I am, however, concerned. I see so much anxiety and unsettledness from them, and young people in general, and I wonder if all this technology with its constant and instant communications is really making life easier for the younger generations – or harder. I can’t say anything to them, lest I be accused of being old fashioned and not understanding the pressures of life today, but from my perspective, technology seems to only have increased their daily struggle.

P. A.

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Bracha Halperin is a business consultant based in new York City. To comment on her Jewish Press-exclusive tech columns -- or to reach her for any other purpose -- e-mail her at brachahalperin@hotmail.com. You can also follow her on Instagram or Twitter at: @brachahalperin.