Let’s be honest, right from the start. I have grey hairs; lots of them. When I am speaking at conferences, and I am surrounded by young people who have grown up with the web, I sometimes feel as though they are looking at me and wondering what on earth this old man can teach them about modern technology. I remember TV when it was only available in black-and-white.
The one thing that is common with any new technology is that younger people tend to think they are better at understanding and using it than older people. I suspect that if we were able to travel back to the first days of parchment, the young folks would all be wondering how the oldies would cope with it.
However, us oldies do cope very well with modern technology – or so we think. We reckon that with our years of experience we can adapt to the new technology better than youngsters. They may have loads of technical know-how, but do they understand?
New research from King’s College London, however, suggests that even with our experience of life we might not be as good with technology as we think we are when we are older. In an interesting neuroscience study, people had their brain activity measured while watching a movie. The younger people tended to have identical brain activity; it was as though their brains were “in sync”. However, the brain activity in the older movie watchers was more “idiosyncratic” with much less common levels of activity.
The researchers believe this is because older people tend to be more easily distracted than younger individuals. You might think that it is younger people who cannot pay attention, but neuroscience shows the opposite. As we age, we tend to give more attention to distractions than we did when we were younger.
The Internet, of course, is full of distractions. Not only are there bright, bold adverts, but there are all sorts of links to click on, videos to watch and a host of things to download. It is likely that older web users are going to be more heavily distracted by all the online options than younger people.
The researchers pointed out that as we get more distracted, so our comprehension goes down. It may well be that older people are getting more distracted online, understanding less of what they are reading or viewing, whilst believing it is the younger generation that has all the issues with distraction and comprehension.
So, if you are of advancing years and you want to use the web in a way that is less distracting, and allows increased comprehension, you either need to get Firefox web browser which has an inbuilt “Reader View” to eliminate distractions. Or you need to get Evernote Clearly.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+