Age is a Number

I'm seizing this global pause an opportunity to confront my fear of technology.

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The Coronavirus continues to alter daily operations in America. Its latest disruption—The Supreme Court.  Last week, the Court commenced with hearing 10 sets of arguments over 6 days. In adherence to public health guidelines, they did not hear these arguments in person. They did not hear them over Zoom, Webex, Teams, Google Meet or other video-conferencing technology. They heard them over the telephone, allowing live remote access to audio for the first time in court history. The telephone, considered by some as obsolete, continues to remain relevant in a digital society.   As families across the country participate in weekly Zoom chats, my sister and I connect with our 82-year-old mother by telephone. As the call initiator, I merge the lines with ease to the amazement of my sister. Her greatest technological accomplishment is depositing a check via ATM. Born in 1964, I am technically a baby boomer, though I identify as Gen X because my childhood experiences were not shaped by segregation, civil rights, or the Vietnam War.My sister and I are working professionals and moms, simultaneously operating iPhones, tablets, and laptops for work and home. Our use of these tools, however, is limited; the camera, a few select apps, and most predominantly the phone.  Why such underuse of pricey gadgets?  I have a fear of technology. My mind is not wired for operating such devices. Remote controls make me twitch—there are too many buttons and I don’t know where to begin. My Fitbit watch is great for tracking steps but goes unprogrammed for time or syncing. But the worst by far is my aversion to social media. Granted: social media is a powerful form of communication, creating global communities of like interests, beliefs, and experiences. I have benefited from the camaraderie of the Weight Watchers app and utilize Pinterest for relaxation and creative exploration. When I began receiving Facebook friend requests in the mid-2000s from high school sweethearts and college classmates, I was overwhelmed with motherhood, feeling unattractive and exhausted. Posting, surfing, and commenting was a dreaded task to add to an already full week of meetings and mommy duties. For me, it was a personal decision to abstain; feelings of inadequacy, judgement, and resentment which I choose to eliminate for my own wellness. Many a new year has come and gone with the same resolution to increase efficiency, incorporate more apps, and play with social media to minimal avail. I appreciate my millennial colleagues who provide tips and encouragement. They hold me accountable to my personal goal of remaining relevant as an African American woman in a country that regards me as an artifact despite my energy and expertise. At the end of the day, the missed invites, community activities, and family updates were sacrifices I was willing to make. I prefer investing my precious commodity of time in the intimate sharing which deepens friendships. I like the telephone because I can hear my mother’s laugh after a silly joke, or my sister’s stress as she balances a medical career and 9-year-old twins.  This was my philosophy before COVID-19 orders sent millions home to figure out how to navigate connectivity and manage work responsibilities.  I am seizing this global pause as an opportunity to confront my fears. No time like the present, but it sure is easier with limited alternatives or distractions.  Less than a week into lockdown, I was participating in daily Zoom calls and chatting on Microsoft Teams. By the third week, I was scrolling Twitter as part of my early morning routine, hosting Facebook watch parties, and walking with friends via Facetime. I am discovering new interests on Spotify, meeting neighbors on NextDoor, and binge-watching Netflix. I comment. I “like.” And I thumbs-up actively participating in life’s new norms of social connectivity. According to the New York Times, my newfound internet use is in alignment with the public shift currently taking place; more connectivity, larger screens. Next week’s goals are to play with Instagram and revive a long-forgotten LinkedIn account. Just like my sister worries about the check not being deposited in the right account, I still don’t trust cash apps, but this too will pass—there are commencement announcements to respond to specifically requesting Venmo as the preferred gift. I do not want to be remembered during shelter-in-place as one who impeded progress or work production. My way of coping with this pandemic is to invest in myself; retooling my skills, discovering new interests, and amplifying my voice through the OpEd Project to raise consciousness.  Age is a number. And I’m no artifact.  
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