Tech and me: earn my trust and we can be friends

I’m definitely not a late adopter of new technology. I’m just trying to be careful and curb my enthusiasm, so to speak, since all these friendly-seeming gadgets need to earn my trust first.

Imagine you’re living in a quiet, rundown neighborhood of some boring town. People don’t hang around here too much – they get up, go to work, and come back to sleep, ordering all their groceries for a home delivery.

The supermarket is also an option as it’s the busiest place around anyway. There are a few pubs and shady restaurants – you enjoy stopping by but, naturally, this can’t happen too often because it’s oh so repetitive, right?

Then, suddenly, the boom begins. The area becomes trendy, and, as thousands of excited newbies move in, really quite busy. A bunch of hipsterish cantinas, salad bars, and places fancily named, say, the Terms and Conditions Brewery, open up.

So much choice, so much life! What’s not to like? Quite obviously, you now leave your apartment with a spring in your step and want to try everything – a taco here, a burger there, an interesting beer in this new fashionably rusty watering hole in the basement.

It’s all very beautiful and colorful. However, you quickly realize that the taco isn’t really that good, and although the burger is prepared innovatively it tastes the same and is twice as expensive as the one at your previous local. The new pub? It’s only open on weekends.

Soon, dozens of these newcomers close their doors for good. You don’t even have time to feel sad about it because replacements are here already, again promising you a brave new world.

Off you go on the adventure again – and so it goes, as Kurt Vonnegut used to say. After a while, you’ve had enough. Yeah, you choose a couple of new places for frequenting but otherwise, you just stick to your old favorites.

Trendsetters and laggards

This is what technology, especially new tech, is in my life. The marketing people might say I’m definitely missing out just because I don’t own a new iPhone, a powerful smartwatch, or an omnipotent just off-the-shelf Alexa device.

But I have time and time again learned the lesson of how important it really is to just keep your cool – especially nowadays when technology spreads faster than ever before and new product cycles get shorter. I’m even happy to be late.

Amazon's Alexa device. Image by Shutterstock.

OK, I’ll gladly admit that I just really don’t care too much. I don’t own the new iPhone but I don’t use an old Nokia either – I just use stuff that I feel is adequately priced and actually useful in my everyday life.

Actually, most people I know are the same. Maybe it’s just my circle but I feel like around 80% of them might try a new gadget or app just for fun but then don’t really rush into acquiring or using it, because it doesn’t really seem necessary.

That’s why I felt compelled to write up this mini defense of late technological adoption – mind you, “late” is the word used as propaganda by marketing departments that want to upsell their shiny new toys.

They even call us “laggards” and say that people who have doubts about Facebook’s impact on our intelligence don’t get it – although this claim is rather rare these days as the social network has turned into a sort of a wasteland of vanity.

Supposedly, late adopters and laggards are less educated and too old to care or learn whereas the innovators and early adopters are trendsetters, paving the way for a brighter and easier future.

It’s as if the owners of the aforementioned fancy eateries started telling the neighborhood veterans that this is the only acceptable way to consume food in public now.

But what if I like those bangers and mash at the oldest cafe on my street? What if an old-fashioned pint of bitter still tastes better than a pricy craft nonsense with a pretty label? I want to be sure in my head that I really like a particular type or brand of beer, and the impression has to age.

It pays to wait

It’s basically being able to tell the signal from the noise. Same with tech. I’m skeptical of marketing, and I always want to make sure I know the differences between what is advertised and what the actual product really is.

I need to know what’s behind the usual bells and whistles. Does it make my life easier? Can I become addicted to it? Can I actually afford it? Can I go on without it?

In most cases, I certainly can. Twitter is useful in my job as a journalist but it’s not a vital tool, especially since Elon Musk is so good at turning the platform into one giant mess.

The metaverse or ChatGPT? To be fair, they’re interesting to report on but I have no time for games anymore. My Samsung smartphone is definitely useful, sure, but is doomscrolling how I should spend my time?

I need to know what’s behind the usual bells and whistles. Does it make my life easier? Can I become addicted to it? Can I actually afford it? Can I go on without it?

I would probably be much better off if I could concentrate for longer periods of time instead of staying on this superfast roller coaster. It does sound a bit trite but I’d rather save my emotional responses to real things happening in the real world.

It’s hard to disagree with Grant McCracken, a cultural anthropologist quoted by The Wall Street Journal in 2016, who – already back then – said there were so many new things to adopt that “a lot of people have effectively bowed out of the innovation game.”

Of course, everyone is different and I avoid telling people what they should or shouldn’t do – it’s none of my business. But it’s hard not to judge, say, a guy who would rather stand in line for a new iPhone than go see his son play football after school.

If a new device or an app is safe, simple, cost-effective, and time-saving – fine. But, again, I need to be sure or close to sure that the gizmo makes my life easier and can become an almost invisible companion – rather than a distraction.

Yes, the new devices are cutting-edge, but don’t get caught up in the yearly frenzy. Especially because sometimes the updates are really modest, and the design is the same as two or even three years ago.

Just be smart. It pays to wait – or to adopt or refresh older tech. Do I really need the new Kindle that is waterproof for $200, or can I splash $50 on an older version on eBay because I don’t read in the bathtub?