IN the quest to appear up to date, technologically speaking, I sometimes pretend to be ahead of the pack. For a while I talked about my Apple to get street cred, but that was when everyone was a PC person and the i-family of devices was still twinkle in Steve Jobs’s eye.
Then, when iPads were still fresh, I’d pull mine out at book club and announce, ‘‘ I’ll just download that book and check the Popular Highlights for a pithy quote.’’
Lately, I’ve been urging friends to go to the cloud. ‘‘ You really should be on the cloud,’’ I’d say, ‘‘ everything’s so secure up there.’’ That worked until my daughter said, ‘‘ It’s not ON the cloud. You don’t send stuff to sit on the cloud like some angel. It’s IN the cloud.’’
Obviously, this sort of one-upmanship only works on those less confident about technology. That rules out people younger than you, anyone who has a device more modern than yours, and anyone wearing sunglasses that look as if they were won in a funfair.
But there are still some people who are more MySpace than Spotify and are easily impressed, especially when you tell them about your Mountain Lion. What’s more, they don’t all live in retirement homes. Some are Hollywood movie stars.
Recently, The New Yorker revealed the stars of the new film The Internship are as dated as the characters they play in the movie. Neither Owen Wilson nor Vince Vaughn is on Twitter, they’ve never opened a Facebook account and when Wilson was asked about technology he said something like, ‘‘ There’s a new BlackBerry coming out, right.’’
The movie is about generational conflict and particularly the contest between the generation that grew up with Mario Kart and the slightly older generation that could still knock a billycart together. But it will appeal to everyone who has ever felt — even for a few days — that technology just took another leap forward and everyone else took a step forward but you missed it, and unless you move fast they’ll start carbon-dating you. And that means everyone. While younger people talk about FOMO (fear of missing out) when they leave their iPhone to go to the toilet, everyone has FOBFO (fear of being found out). Fear of being found out is the fear you get when someone says, ‘‘ Did you see that tweet from Nouriel Roubini?’’ and you’re not on Twitter.
It’s when the help desk says, ‘‘ Do a force quit’’ and you can only see the escape button — and that never takes you anywhere. It’s how you feel when a friend is talking about a Spotify playlist and you’re still stuffing CDs into the side of your computer.
It’s how you feel in a hipster cafe when you can’t understand what they’re talking about and what media they use to find all that stuff out. They live on a different platform from you and me (or is that IN a different platform?).
You may be feeling a little FOBFO right now, especially after I dropped the fact that I have a Mountain Lion. You didn’t know the IOS/OSX world had defaulted to biological expressions, did you?
But don’t fear, there are some reassuring things about being stuck in an era in which you have to upgrade yourself every few weeks.
First, this is a classless problem. Everyone has it, even your chief executive — especially your chief executive. You’ve heard about the boss who had to dictate messages to an assistant because he couldn’t use email; the boss who put staff memos on Twitter; or the one who started friending people on Facebook before his HR executive hit the roof.
And, believe me, our chief executives have huge amounts of FOBFO because they know what’s at stake. As the guys in The Internship say, the workplace is ‘‘ like a mental Hunger Games against a bunch of genius kids for a handful of jobs’’. (And a few chief executives would feel even more nervous now because they’ve never heard of The Hunger Games).
The other reassuring thing about escalating technology is that, for a little while at least, everyone will be out of date. Sure, there are software engineers in Google who are never digitally dated but you don’t meet them at dinner parties, do you? The trick is not to be too far out of date. Like, don’t put off upgrading your computer until it’s too late and you are forced to buy a new computer — one that comes with the Lion. But if you are out of date, never stop pretending.