In Adam Gopnik’s article, “How the Internet Gets Us”, he explains that there are three groups of people when we think about technology. The Never-Betters are the optimists that intrinsically believe in technology as if the Internet is our greatest creation and more innovative technologies are to come. The Better-Nevers are the nostalgic ones that crave “how it used to be”, thinking that the world will come to an end because nothing will be as great and powerful as the book. The Ever-Wasers are the rationalists that learn to deal with technology and its challenges as they come. If you were to ask me, I’d say all three, please!
We view the older generation: our grandparents, elders or seniors in our community, as more likely to identify themselves as Better-Nevers because they’ve lived longer than us, with viewpoints and lifestyles we’ll never understand. Lately, we’ve been thirsting for nostalgia, cue Stranger Things and its successes with chiming into our retro early-mid-1980s connotations. Some of us weren’t even born then to enjoy the symbolic mementos, so how could we possibly be nostalgic for it? Alas, when we compare how life was then to how life is now, how simple things were back then to how things keep getting more and more complicated, I understand how one might feel like a Better-Never. Has modernity failed us? There are nights when nothing, not even a compelling Netflix show, can beat the feel of a new book in my hands. I devour it and sift into a different world that isn’t now.
While thinking about all the new technology that enters our world, I can understand why some (including a part of myself) are Never-Betters. Some of our technology is really mesmerizing, and I can imagine people who were first introduced to the Internet feeling the same. I can’t remember the first time I was connected to the Internet, but I can remember the first time I got an iPhone as my first cellphone and what an experience that was. I can understand how sometimes technology really hurts us, how we are consumed into a burnout generation of social media, gaming, and just staring at the screen for so long your eyeballs melt addictions. However, I can’t fathom what’s next for us with where the Internet can go. It’s scary, but sometimes fear drives us towards better things ahead.
I recently went back to my part-time job where I see many Ever-Wasers, elderly people bravely and diligently learning new features to better optimize their phones. I often say to seniors watching the session from afar: “if those brave people can do it, then what’s holding you back from doing the same?” It shouldn’t be an age thing; technology does not discriminate who a user can be. A person can be nostalgic but still hopeful for what’s to come, or better yet, use that nostalgia to inspire new innovations that capture a bit of the essence from the past. As Gopnik suggests, “Once it is not everything, it can be merely something. The real demon in the machine is the tirelessness of the user.” Technology is what we make it out to be; it is controlled by the people and our thinking towards it. Perhaps we have to take things as they come because we don’t know a piece of technology until we’ve thoroughly tried to integrate it into our lives.
It’s all about balance. Maybe every time we get an iOS update, my heartbeat will quicken and I’ll spam text my friends “LOOK WHAT THEY DID NOW. TECHNOLOGY SUCKS!” But after a couple of days, I’ll give in and let my phone refresh into the not-so-scary future that awaits me. I’m still waiting to convert my grandma into an iPhone user, and when I’ve finally done it, I’ll be the first and possibly best Never-Betters-Better-Nevers-Ever-Waser yet.