To tech or not to tech is the question for baby boomers

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We think a story about vacations with technology that University of Maine professor emeritus Edward Brazee sent us at BoomerCafé will resonate with most of you fellow boomers. He’s in the business of helping baby boomers be more productive and creative with the “technology” that is ubiquitous in our lives, and he poses a question for which many of us need a good answer: To tech or not to tech … is that the question?

On a recent beach vacation in Mexico, my wife and I were confronted with the question that bedevils all Boomers in this digital age: Should we take our laptops, tablets, or phones with us?

Ed Brazee on holiday, armed with vacation and technology gear.

Ed Brazee on holiday, armed with vacation and technology gear.

Yes, this was a vacation. No, we didn’t plan to do much (if any) “work.” And no, we weren’t compelled to stay in touch with anyone back home since we were only going to be gone a week. And no, again,we had no intention of playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga when all we wanted to do was be outside in the warmth and sun, escaping an extra-long Maine winter. Neither of us is an online gamer, so why would we start playing games on vacation? Perhaps most important, computers and sand and saltwater do not mix well! We would never take any device to the beach.

Beautiful setting … and laptop.

Beautiful setting … and laptop.

So I’m not sure why I feel apologetic about even admitting it, but we liked having our laptops (the extra light ones) with us. A year ago in a similar situation, when we used our devices in a public lounge at our hotel, we discerned a number of disapproving looks from fellow vacationers that hinted, “You are on vacation, why can’t you put your laptops away and enjoy yourselves?” And I have to admit that I have had similar thoughts at home when I’ve seen college students texting on their cell phones in the hot tub at the university’s student rec center or when other adults make me privy to their much too intimate tales of colonoscopies and other medical events.

Okay, we’ll admit it! We spent some time online nearly every night,but not emailing, Skyping, or sending dozens of beach pictures to family and friends. But it was great to be able to read the news from different sources that I seldom have time to read at home. I liked accessing my Feedly account to dig deeper into magazines or blogs with all kinds of fascinating information. In short, we did just what anyone likes to do on vacation— we read for pure pleasure.

Of course, I also appreciated being able to read about Mexico’s Mayan Tulum ruins and the nearby Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. And, yes, I did spend a few minutes reading reviews of restaurants we were eager to try out. The key thing is, at no time did our laptops keep us from doing what we were in Mexico to do: relax, enjoy being together, and revel in the warmth of the sun.

Should boomers take along digital devices on vacation?

Should boomers take along digital devices on vacation?

Recently, I researched a large number of Boomer summer camps, where almost exclusively, all digital devices (and Internet access) are banned. I get this. I understand why people who are overwhelmingly connected 24/7 need to unplug for a while. But I don’t understand why people find it so difficult to balance responsible use and leisure time. Kenny Rogers’ song about “knowing when to hold ‘em, knowing when to fold ‘em” applies quite well here.

Maybe Boomers aren’t as tied to their devices as younger generations. As much as I appreciate what my devices do for me, I don’t feel as if I am missing life because I am online. I like to think that I know when to put my laptop or tablet away and pay attention to what and who is in front of me.

What do you think? Are Boomers better able to separate themselves from an “always on” digital life? Do you take your device(s) with you when you go on vacation? Should you?

Ed Brazee online.

5 Comments

  1. Thank you Ed. You have raised an issue that my wife and I continually chat about. I confess to being hooked into the internet constantly and do feel a strong need to unplug. Then again I am driven to keep up with all the emails that begin to queue up and go on for pages. I look at others and shake my head when I see them looking at their smart phones during dinners out, as they sit with others seemingly ignoring them. I do not want to be like those people, but find it more difficult each day that I am hooked into the internet.

  2. Hi Ed, I enjoyed your article. I can relate to the topic of tech addiction.

    Unfortunately, not only am I a print addict but I also work/research online. Plus, I live in Mexico and use my devices to keep up with news back home and around the world, and with my family and friends. So, I am online a lot as it is.

    But, when I went to the beach last year, I only took my MX cell phone and my iPad which serves as an Int’l phone. I also brought a few paperbacks. My friends joined me for a few days. Besides enjoying the water, we walked the Malecon and around town. We sat out on the patio facing the beach a lot and had a wonderful, relaxing holiday almost tech-free.

  3. Since I had a debilitating stroke in 2005 I haven’t traveled but I did a lot before :-) I’ve been self employed since 1980 (I’m 63) so have been my own boss for years. In the 70s and 80s there was no internet and in the 90s I went back and forth to a biz in SF where I had technology. I’m able to turn off my desktop Mac except when I’m working with a client any time !!

  4. I totally agree with what I would say is a sensible approach to using a device when on vacation. For those of us who run an online business however the internet and access to it is a must but it does not mean we have to be online all day. Whenever we ‘go away’ we will either take a tablet or laptop and login early morning and early evening to catch up and it is useful as Ed says to check out sites and restaurant prior to going.

    1. Eric, thanks for your comments. There are no hard and fast rules here as you well know…and that may actually be a good thing. My wife and I also talk about this as we watch TV or a movie with laptops open! Instead of enjoying the moment or being together we are working separately. We are on the same couch but definitely not sharing the moment. Always more email to read, ideas to research, articles to find…but I like the idea of a tech-free time during at least a couple of hours each evening. And don’t get me started on those who don’t know enough to pack away their phones when out with others! Adults should know better, but younger folk really do need to be taught good (digital) manners.

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