The Generation Gap

The Generation Gap

A few years ago, the font on my email became very tiny. I explored trying to figure out how to change it, and I was unsuccessful. I called my daughter and asked her to help me. She told me to go to View, click Reset, and it would change. Indeed, it did immediately. I apologized for calling her, and indicated I appreciate her help.

She then told me to stop apologizing. She told me that she was aware I had been using computers since the 1970s, before she was born.

While the time was longer than she was involved with technology, she said our styles were different.

She explained, “When you are on your computer, you think. I do not. I have no problem helping you.”

She was right and continues to be right. She continues to move easily with the innovations, and I remain in place. I was reminded of this event while reading Anxious People by Fredrick Backman. He compares himself and his son on computers at adjacent desks at work.

“Jim was born in a generation that regarded computers as magic, Jack in one that has always taken them for granted. When Jim was young, children used to be punished by being sent to their rooms.

“These days you have to force children to come out of them. One generation got told off for not being able to sit still, the next gets told off for never moving.”

So, when Jim writes a report he hits every key all the way down very deliberately, then checks the screen at once to make sure it hasn’t tricked him, and only then does he press the next key. Because Jim isn’t the sort of man who lets himself be tricked.

Jack, in turn, types the way young men who’ve never lived in a world without the Internet do. He can do it blindfolded, stroking the keys so gently that even a forensics expert wouldn’t be able to prove that he’s touched

The two men drive each other crazy, of course, about the smallest things. When the son is looking for something on the Internet, he calls it ‘googling,’ but when his dad does the same thing, he says, ‘I’ll look that up on Google.’

When they disagree about something, the father says, ‘Well, it must be right, because I read it on Google!’ and the son exclaims, “You don’t actually read things on Google, Dad, you search for them there….”

It felt wonderful to find someone I could identify with. I suspect there are readers joining each group. I am not anticipating learning much more technology. I have three children.

Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to or through her website,