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Ask Jules: I’m young but not experienced with tech. Is that a problem?

(María Alconada Brooks/The Washington Post; iStock)
3 min

Hi Jules: I feel a bit uncomfortable about being in my early 20s and not having as much experience with tech compared to others my age. Of course I utilize tech, but I had a very odd childhood where I didn’t get an iPhone until I was about 19, so I’m still learning things that my peers have known for a while. I didn’t think much of it until my crew mentioned it wasn’t normal. Should I be worried? If so, what should I do?

— B

B: Just because your peers’ upbringing was different doesn’t mean it was necessarily “better.” While they may have a deeper understanding of the cultural nuances that came with using certain devices and platforms throughout their childhoods, this intimate relationship with tech is still very new. I don’t think you should be worried, but it’s important to recognize that tech is playing an increasingly prominent role in how we interact, learn and work — and having your finger on the pulse moving forward is necessary.

This doesn’t mean you have to spend hours on social media or playing video games or that you have to invest in a VR headset. What it does mean is you should be curious and willing to seek out reliable sources of information to keep you up-to-date. This will provide you with a base level of knowledge that’s beneficial to navigating the world today, whether tech personally interests you or not.

I believe you should follow what’s happening in social media, gaming, digital reality technologies and artificial intelligence. Social media and gaming will help you understand the culture that developed around technology during your peers’ childhoods. You’ll also be able to see how these spaces are shaping expression, dialogue and new ways of earning a living right now. For very similar reasons, keeping an eye on digital reality technologies like augmented, virtual and mixed reality, along with artificial intelligence, will position you to be on top of things in coming years.

Twitter and YouTube are amazing hubs of information that allow you to consume casual insights from industry leaders, as well as stay up-to-date on the latest breakthroughs and setbacks. As a starting point — I recommend following Matt Navarra for social media, subscribing to Lex Fridman for artificial intelligence, and subscribing to CNET for both gaming and digital reality technologies. I also like MKBHD for tech product reviews and Cleo Abram for a more holistic view of the tech landscape.

Checking in on these individuals and organizations will take minimal time out of your weeks but will provide a strong foundational understanding of tech. Otherwise, this field can easily get overwhelming, so don’t feel the need to overextend yourself.

Finally, it’s up to you if you’d like to actually utilize certain devices or platforms. For example: if you don’t want to become a gamer, you could tune into a Twitch stream of whatever is currently popular for a bit to get the gist. Acknowledging and understanding why these things are important doesn’t mean you have to fully participate yourself.

You have autonomy over deciding whether further immersing yourself in tech is worth it or if you prefer the tone your childhood set for you. Our generation is the first to have such an intimate relationship with tech from a young age, so who knows, your unique experience may end up being a superpower.

@julesterpak Advice column with @washingtonpost ♬ original sound - Jules Terpak