The other day, Twitter did a complete overhaul of their website in terms of appearance and functionality.
It rolled out gradually but suddenly: not everybody got it at once, but once they did, it was immediately and completely different.
I hated it at first, but I’ve gotten used to it now. It was actually an improvement, rather than just a change, I will grudgingly admit.
Two other Internet giants, Google and Facebook, have also changed their look and interface in recent months. At the time, Facebook’s was universally reviled and people threatened to go to Google+, but of course very few people did. Google’s change, which spanned the social networking project, search engine, Gmail, YouTube and everything else, was to the front end more about aesthetics, but in a subtle way, you now know everything that Google is doing just by the appearance.
If you’re above a certain age, you’ve may heard of these things but don’t care enough to learn them. If you’re above the age of maybe 40 or so and it’s not an important part of your job, it’s incredibly confusing and tough just to keep up with. If you’re 30 to 40, it’s something you can keep up with well, but more than slightly disquieting. If you’re 20 to 30, it’s all very exciting, and if you’re younger than 20, it’s fun and just sort of the way life should be.
I can tell that I’m moving out of the range where change is exciting (although it still is) and into the realm where change is bothersome, and untrustworthy. My first reaction tends to be discomfort as opposed to adventure, and I look forward to settling into a groove.
Technology doesn’t let you do that and stay current. There was a term for this in the ’70s, “future shock” or “too much change in too short of time.” This hasn’t borne out for most things, but for the Internet and now social media, that’s the new normal.
Unless you’re a certain age. If you’re young enough and don’t know any different, it’s just the way of things.
Humans have an amazing capacity for this. In the 1918 Influenza Epidemic that killed millions of people, survivors of that described how, as children, they’d play around the stacks of bodies, perfectly happy because they had no idea they were living through the worst pandemic since the black plague. Their friends down the block would get sick and die and then another would and maybe they would too, and none of them knew it wasn’t supposed to be that way, so they weren’t traumatized.
Once you get older and you have enough life experience, you have certain expectations of the way things ought to be. At some point, you don’t want anything new out of life, just what’s made you comfortable. If you were 60 when the TV came out, you didn’t want one. If you were 35, you’d feel uncomfortable undressing in front of it while it was on. But if you grew up with one, it’s just a TV, and no one had to teach you anything about it.
You hear stories about children, infants and toddlers mostly, who “read” books and try to make the text bigger or turn the page using their fingers in the same way they’d do it on an iPad or similar tablet. It’s partly funny, and partly scary, but it shouldn’t be either one.
They’re just already living in the world they’ll grow up in, and we’re still trying to live in ours.