Ask the Experts

Computer Connections

I’m studying to prepare for a career in technology. That’s not my problem, though: I’m very happy with that! It’s my father who isn’t. He’s an old-fashioned guy with old-fashioned values, and he’s not big on technology. Don’t get me wrong, I’d probably have it worse if I’d announced I was going to be an artist, or something. But while my dad is happy I’m headed for a career with some money-making potential, he’s totally unimpressed with the industry I’m entering. He rolls his eyes at startup culture, laughs at tech’s lax dress code, and, above all, insists that technology drives us apart. He loves to talk about “kids with their noses buried in phones” and how “nobody ever talks to each other anymore.” Any tips on bringing my dad around to the benefits of technology?

Your father is not alone in his opinion of technology: more than 70 percent of Americans believe that technology is weakening our personal connections. But that opinion is not universal, and it is important to note that the divide is very generational. Millennials think that technology gives them more connections with people. Interestingly, millennials also believe that connections made online are getting “less authentic” and will continue to trend in that direction–so perhaps you should keep this moment in mind for years from now, when you may find yourself have the same argument with your child.

At least some experts and data support the idea that technology encourages, rather than discourages, human connection. Social media platforms are bigger than ever, with Facebook topping 2 billion active users. And it is not just individuals connecting with tech: Telecom tech company Polycom says it brings voice and video connections to more than 400,000 companies and institutions.

The social connections we build through technology are strong, but it might be difficult for your father to understand that unless you can get him to try that tech out for himself–and, based on your question, that seems pretty unlikely. But there are other ways to demonstrate the bonding powers of tech that do not require your father’s active participation. Consider using tech to do something for the family. For instance, you could use one of the internet’s many genealogy and family history websites to track your father’s heritage. If your home has an old broken computer or digital camera in it, you could turn to hard drive recovery experts to unearth long-lost photos and show your father that digital storage can preserve personal memories and connections.

Ultimately, of course, you will only be able to get through to your father if he lets you. Communication will win the day, not just facts. You seem willing to do your part, and that is commendable. But remember that even if your father never comes around on the benefits of technology, you will still have a career that you love and that (from the sound of things) he respects some aspects of.

“Technology is the campfire around which we tell our stories.” — Laurie Anderson

Suzanne Hite is a former publications editor serving the technology services sector.