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To tech or not to tech is the question for baby boomers

We think a story about vacations with technology that University of Maine professor emeritus Edward Brazee sent us at BoomerCafé will resonate with most of you fellow boomers. He’s in the business of helping baby boomers be more productive and creative with the “technology” that is ubiquitous in our lives, and he poses a question for which many of us need a good answer: To tech or not to tech … is that the question?

On a recent beach vacation in Mexico, my wife and I were confronted with the question that bedevils all Boomers in this digital age: Should we take our laptops, tablets, or phones with us?

Ed Brazee on holiday, armed with vacation and technology gear.

Ed Brazee on holiday, armed with vacation and technology gear.

Yes, this was a vacation. No, we didn’t plan to do much (if any) “work.” And no, we weren’t compelled to stay in touch with anyone back home since we were only going to be gone a week. And no, again,we had no intention of playing Angry Birds or Candy Crush Saga when all we wanted to do was be outside in the warmth and sun, escaping an extra-long Maine winter. Neither of us is an online gamer, so why would we start playing games on vacation? Perhaps most important, computers and sand and saltwater do not mix well! We would never take any device to the beach.

So I’m not sure why I feel apologetic about even admitting it, but we liked having our laptops (the extra light ones) with us. A year ago in a similar situation, when we used our devices in a public lounge at our hotel, we discerned a number of disapproving looks from fellow vacationers that hinted, “You are on vacation, why can’t you put your laptops away and enjoy yourselves?” And I have to admit that I have had similar thoughts at home when I’ve seen college students texting on their cell phones in the hot tub at the university’s student rec center or when other adults make me privy to their much too intimate tales of colonoscopies and other medical events.

Beautiful setting … and laptop.

Beautiful setting … and laptop.

Okay, we’ll admit it! We spent some time online nearly every night,but not emailing, Skyping, or sending dozens of beach pictures to family and friends. But it was great to be able to read the news from different sources that I seldom have time to read at home. I liked accessing my Feedly account to dig deeper into magazines or blogs with all kinds of fascinating information. In short, we did just what anyone likes to do on vacation— we read for pure pleasure.

Of course, I also appreciated being able to read about Mexico’s Mayan Tulum ruins and the nearby Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve. And, yes, I did spend a few minutes reading reviews of restaurants we were eager to try out. The key thing is, at no time did our laptops keep us from doing what we were in Mexico to do: relax, enjoy being together, and revel in the warmth of the sun.

Should boomers take along digital devices on vacation?

Should boomers take along digital devices on vacation?

Recently, I researched a large number of Boomer summer camps, where almost exclusively, all digital devices (and Internet access) are banned. I get this. I understand why people who are overwhelmingly connected 24/7 need to unplug for a while. But I don’t understand why people find it so difficult to balance responsible use and leisure time. Kenny Rogers’ song about “knowing when to hold ’em, knowing when to fold ’em” applies quite well here.

Maybe Boomers aren’t as tied to their devices as younger generations. As much as I appreciate what my devices do for me, I don’t feel as if I am missing life because I am online. I like to think that I know when to put my laptop or tablet away and pay attention to what and who is in front of me.

What do you think? Are Boomers better able to separate themselves from an “always on” digital life? Do you take your device(s) with you when you go on vacation? Should you?

Ed Brazee online.