Have compassion for neo-Luddites during the holidays

3005591006_8b62706d43Over the Thanksgiving weekend, I ran into an issue that I haven’t had to deal with for a long time: blatant hostility towards technology. Since I work in a tech field, most of my daily encounters are with the geek crowd. And when I get home, my wife is very sympathetic to geek-kind (or at least she pretends really well!).

Here’s the scene: I’m out with some family members (who shall remain nameless) at a restaurant and I’m having a great time. I decide to update my Twitter (and Facebook) status from my mobile phone. Later, at a nearby coffee shop, I do it again, for a total of three digital distractions during our visit (technically, one didn’t count since I was showing one of my family members how an application worked on my iPod Touch).

A bit later, one of my family members asked what I was doing on my phone earlier. When I told him/her (anonymity is crucial here), he/she asked me, “Well, could you not do that while you’re visiting with us?”

Wow. I didn’t really have a response to that. I was taken aback due to two things: 1) this individual is relatively tech savvy and 2) social media is so integrated with what I do that being asked not to do it seems downright rude.

After thinking about him/her a bit more, however, I realized that “tech savvy” is not the same as “digital native.” This individual is someone I’d call a “neo-Luddite” in that he/she is comfortable with technology as of about five years ago: using a PC, email, and general Internet searches. But when it comes to the increasingly integrated nature of technology in our lives, this person just doesn’t get it (yet). He/she still has the misguided idea that as long as he/she doesn’t do much on the Internet, that his/her privacy will be guaranteed.

In fact, later I learned that this individual prefers not to have any identifying photos or content posted about him/her on the Web. Whoops. For years, I’d been posting photos of him/her and his/her entire family on my personal web site’s photo gallery.

Now that I’ve had time to think about it, though, I realize that I need to be a bit more sensitive. I began to think that just as I wouldn’t drink alcohol around a friend who is a recovering alcoholic or serve peanut butter to someone with a peanut allergy, maybe I should be proactive about finding out about the technology preferences for those around me. Especially when it concerns posting photos of them or their kids on my web site, Facebook, etc.

This will be especially important when, in a few weeks (I hope) I start using an EyeFi card in my digital camera (courtesy of this awesome deal from Google). I’ll need to be vigilant of how I set up this card to avoid posting photos publicly until I’ve had a chance to sort through and filter which ones I want to publish.

What do you think? Will you be around anyone during the holidays who might prefer that you “check your tech at the door” or even be offended if your use of tech encroaches on their life? Leave your stories and suggestions in the comments!


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