5 Reasons to Embrace the 21st Century

afraidI’ve been thinking a lot about how things are changing so fast these days… technology is obsolete the moment it comes to market, there’s a new “must participate” social network every week, and publishing, well, after a good 100-year run, publishing is finally being forced to enter the 21st century.

It all feels a little overwhelming sometimes, and I know many people are just plain tired. I never thought I’d be this young and yet feel so antiquated, but make no mistake, if you’re over, say, 30, you’re an old fogie. You grew up when there was no Facebook, texting wasn’t the primary mode of communication, and people read “books” made of paper, glue and ink.

It’s sometimes tempting to be a “Luddite.”  How lovely to hide out in our homes shunning cell phones, rejecting Facebook, dismissing Twitter, eschewing text messages. And above all, boycotting e-readers.

But I think there may be some very good reasons for us to avoid the avoidance… and instead, embrace the future. (Since, as they say, the future is here.) Here are a few.

1. Staving off dementia. Yep, I said it. They say the best way to avoid succumbing to Alzheimer’s or senility is to keep your brain working. Well, might as well keep it working by learning all these newfangled technologies. What else are you going to do, play Sudoku?

2. Keeping Up is Easier than Catching Up. You know what this is like. If you didn’t learn blogging, Twitter, and Facebook one at a time as each one entered the mainstream, you’re pretty much gobsmacked if you’re faced with learning them all at once.

3. Avoid Old-Fogie-itis. Wouldn’t you rather be the parent or the grandparent who gets it? How embarrassing to hear your kid say, “OMG my mom wants me to read a BOOK, like the kind with paper and stuff. I mean, that’s what my iPad is for.”

4. It’s the Economy, Stupid. Recession hit you much? If so, you’re probably keenly aware of the importance of having marketable skills. And in most lines of work, you’ve got to be up on the latest everything to be perceived as valuable. Just because your beloved rotary-dial phone became extinct doesn’t mean you have to.

5. If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em. Or if you’d like another another cliché… you can’t fight progress. You can resist, but that takes an awful lot of energy. Isn’t it more fun to learn new ways of thinking and doing things? Must we get so set in our ways that we become obstinate and annoying? We are not going backwards. It’s your choice to keep up… or not.

Okay, now that I’ve written these five reasons, I can see that they’re not going to convince anyone. Your turn.

What are some more reasons to embrace our brave new world? Or alternatively, what are your reasons NOT to?

 [I’m taking a vacation day. This is a repost from last year.]


Avoid old-fogie-itis and stave off dementia! Agent @RachelleGardner tells how. Click to Tweet.

Agent @RachelleGardner gives 5 good reasons to avoid the avoidance and embrace the future. Click to Tweet.

5 Reasons to Embrace the 21st Century, by @RachelleGardner. Click to Tweet.


Rachelle Gardner

Literary agent at Gardner Literary. Coffee & wine enthusiast (not at the same time) and dark chocolate connoisseur. I've worked in publishing since 1995 and I love talking about books!


  1. Mary Ann Clarke Scot on August 19, 2013 at 1:34 AM

    All 5 of your reasons are excellent. I used to do research in dementia, and I keep up with research news. Truly, we have to use our brains, and not just for the stuff we already know how to do. Stretch, and you’ll hang onto the grey matter.
    I’m well into the 30+ demographic myself, and I have to say that “keeping up rather than catching up” is what motivates me now. I’ve always been good with technology, but it’s not my “thing”. I don’t especially love new gadgets or ways of doing things. So I let social media slide, long enough that I began to be afraid I really couldn’t catch up. It was a struggle for a couple of years once I decided I had to jump back on. And I’ll never understand it or use it the way the youngsters do. But I’m doing all right now, and I can’t imagine trying to ignore these changes now. Even if you don’t engage with the tools, you still have to engage with the people who use them.

  2. Leslie Miller on August 7, 2013 at 1:31 PM

    Perhaps there are some fields in which one can remain a Luddite: gardener, maybe? But “author” definitely is not one of them. I am a member of an author’s association in Denver. I’m always dumbfounded when an author says, “I don’t really even know what a blog is.” Or, “I can barely use a computer, except to type.” I like keeping up with modern tech–much of it makes life easier and more interesting and some of it is just flat out necessary to be successful, especially if you are self-pubbing.

    By the way, I’m 56. I connect with my family on the East Coast through Google Hangouts. Phenomenal!

    Really enjoy your blog, Rachelle.

  3. Brenda K. on August 7, 2013 at 1:11 PM

    Reason #6 for me: Some of this new technology is fun, convenient, effective or all three. Used wisely, it makes life better, so why not dive in and figure out how to get the best of what this brave new world has to offer?

  4. Chris Schumerth on August 7, 2013 at 2:03 AM

    I mostly resist the Ludite temptation, although I think Wendell Berry made a pretty good case for us to to be more prudent in our taking on of new technologies. Are you familiar with his work? He’s written some 40-50 books on a typewriter and ploughs his fields using animal labor! See his argument here: http://home.btconnect.com/tipiglen/berrynot.html

  5. Lynda on August 6, 2013 at 11:17 PM

    I’m 30-x-2 and I’ve been on FB and Twitter since 2009, I own 2 Kindles, one original and 1 Fire, and when I need some down time I “doodle” on my netbook’s graphic design program. My 64-yr-old hubby is also social media and tech savvy, plus he has a smart phone that sends text messages entirely by voice command. Too cool ~ I want one of those for Christmas.

    When my first great-grandchild was born earlier this year, although we live in New Mexico and they are more than 1500 miles away in Seattle, it was almost like being there when my daughter sent a photo taken with her smart phone to my husband’s smart phone. When I saw the picture of my beautiful granddaughter holding her minutes-old baby boy, I kissed the picture… which made Stan’ smart phone screen go all wonky, but I could not help myself!

    I have fond memories of 4 of my own great-grandparents, all of whom were born in the 1800s. This is a great time to be alive, and to be a very youthful 60-something great grandparent!

  6. Carolynnwith2ns on August 6, 2013 at 8:49 PM

    Yes to everything you said BUT always know how to count back change, drive stick and tie a shoe. Rubbing two sticks together might be of help too. Talk instead of text, walk instead of ride.Embrace the future but don’t forget the past, you just might need it someday.
    I love tech and stave off old fogie-itis by doing everything but twitter. That’s next.
    Anybody see my Sears Selectric, I got me an idea, an envelope and a stamp.

  7. Peter DeHaan on August 6, 2013 at 7:54 PM

    “Avoid the avoidance,” I like that! To me it means “embrace change.”

    (Point #2 reminds me of a cartoon: A scruffy looking guy (aka a “bum) sits dejected on a park bench. The caption reads “He used to be in IT, but took a 6 week vacation and fell so far behind that he couldn’t catch up.”)

  8. Trend Follower on August 6, 2013 at 3:17 PM

    I wish I’d kept up with 8-Tracks. Now I’m ignorant. Help.

  9. Tricia Robertson on August 6, 2013 at 12:43 PM

    Rachelle, your posts always make me smile! I can so relate! I’m hoping your vacation day is one of unplugged bliss. Although I often want to escape to an island with no technological interruptions, I have found these online connections to be a blessing when it comes to staying in touch with friends and family who now live far away. Facebook in particular has kept me up to date and in the loop even when chronic illness has kept me homebound. I also like the ability to see what my grown children are up to! Most recently, FB allowed me to follow the birth of my niece’s first child. Those updates and pictures mean the world to me!

  10. Michelle McGill Vargas on August 6, 2013 at 12:20 PM

    Embrace 4 the power to get your message our there…responsibly.

  11. Roxanne Sherwood Gray on August 6, 2013 at 9:43 AM


    I’d have liked to been born in an earlier time without all this technology–just as long as I had indoor plumbing. 😉 But I’m working on getting up to speed with technology for the reasons you cite, plus this one:

    6. Use It or Lose It. Authors of contemporary fiction must understand technology to create believable characters in a society that uses all those gadgets and social media. Most of my characters are younger than I am. It would be unrealistic if none of my characters ever blogged, emailed, tweeted etc.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on August 6, 2013 at 2:03 PM

      Current technical references can be important, but they can also seriously date a book. Twenty years ago, you could add a reference to a floppy disk. Now it’ll make a reader cringe.

      After that it was the zip disk. Does ANYONE remember those?

      It’s better, I think, to keep the technology in the background unless it’s needed to move the plot or character development ahead. Specificity does not necessarily add verisimilitude, and a lot of the actions – Facebooking, Tweeting, etc., are already implied in daily life.

      • Roxanne Sherwood Gray on August 6, 2013 at 3:09 PM

        Andrew, I agree specific references can date a story. (The very first draft of my first ms had a doctor using a pager because my own doctor still did, even though cell phones were popular. He didn’t trust the reliability of always getting a signal. But rewrites had my character using a cell.)

        Mostly, I was thinking of a situation where an author’s reluctance to using technology could prevent a character from being believable or relevant. What college student doesn’t text? Maybe my character wouldn’t, but she’d probably be razzed by a friend for not having it on her cell phone plan. My younger than 30-year-old characters will be savvy about technology unless there’s a specific reason for them not to be. So, I’d better learn what I need to write believable stories.

        • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on August 6, 2013 at 4:48 PM

          I agree completely, that knowing the technology is vital in creating a setting. It’s a part of research, and analogous to accuracy in a historical novel.

          And yes, all college students text. Mine did…in class.

          That brings to mind the changed mores that have come with the technology. The kids really did not see it as a problem, that they were sending texts while I was lecturing.

          A more serious issue was plagiarism – the kids could download term papers on almost any subject, and pass the work as their own. Some instructors bought software that would screen what the kids wrote, and compare it to what was available.

          The problem is very widespread, and again, students generally don’t feel there’s a moral conflict. They are there to get good grades and a degree, period, and they resent anything that interferes with the ‘streamlining’ of that process.

          I had my own solution. I made them write papers longhand. Not very popular, but fairly effective.

  12. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on August 6, 2013 at 2:35 AM

    Oh, and no e-reader for me.

    We have a few (!) dogs, and they’ve eaten extension cords, calculators, airplane parts, an electric drill, magazines (both the paper kind and the kind that fit a rifle), pillows, and a guaranteed indestructible “pet taxi”.

    And books.

    Taking out our whole library in one blue-sparking go would just be too tempting as a potential accomplishment.

    Kind of a canine version of the destruction of the Alexandria Library.

  13. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser on August 6, 2013 at 1:52 AM

    I don’t think I’m an old fogie, but I have seen some problems with college students who jump into new technology too fully – they move away from the real, physical world.

    I taught civil engineering for a bit more than ten years, a period which spanned a lot of the transitions you’ve mentioned. In that time, the students went from having an intuitive sense of how things worked – and sometimes didn’t – to an idealized picture of how things are supposed to be in a flawless, digital world.

    As an example – anything you build will have tolerances, dimensions that are either larger or smaller than the ideal. This isn’t a practical problem – you just build “what’s there”. But in the past couple of years I noticed that my students really didn’t understand the concept. They felt that if you designed a structure on the computer, it could be built to match that design – exactly.

    I also had a supervisor – who should have known better – tell me to “just teach them the software” and omit the theory. Great idea, except if you don’t understand how the software works you can’t use it safely. And I mean, yes, safely – to design buildings and bridges. Software can’t think for the engineer. I know, because I wrote a lot of that software.

    Embracing technology, as an ideal, sucks. Technology’s a tool.

    Embrace a person instead.


    • Pittsburgh, PA on August 6, 2013 at 11:48 AM

      “I taught civil engineering for a bit more than ten years, a period which
      spanned a lot of the transitions you’ve mentioned. In that time, the
      students went from having an intuitive sense of how things worked – and
      sometimes didn’t – to an idealized picture of how things are supposed to
      be in a flawless, digital world.” – Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

      You are brilliant! Your above statement really ‘hit the nail on the head’. I shielded my now 21 year old from all technology until he hit 16. He is now entering his third year as a mechanical engineering student. Once he got that first cell phone and computer – all work that went into process planning (for anything) went out the window, even for little things. He too just trusts the software to come up with the best approach. Ugh.

  14. Hal Reichardt on August 5, 2013 at 4:33 PM

    Love this post, as I’m part of the over-30 crowd. The point that really resonated with me is that it is just plain more fun to play with the new toys. I’m even starting to like some of the new music (like Imagine Dragons). If I keep this up I’ll have a cell phone before you know it. Thanks for all the valuable information you share on this blog.

  15. Jennifer on August 5, 2013 at 12:31 PM

    Amen! I’m one of those published authors who is still working another full-time job to make ends meet and this is happening everywhere, not just the publishing industry. I find myself having to explain things constantly to people I work with – (most of them 50+). It isn’t their age that is the problem, it’s their mindset and their resistance to change. If they don’t get up to speed, they won’t continue to be marketable. I’m 41, but I embraced all these new things as they became available. I love new gadgets, new apps, and therefore, feel like I identify with the 20 & 30 somethings more than the 40 & 50 somethings. I’m shocked when I run into people my age and they tell me they aren’t on Twitter. The 30 & 40 somethings are steadily moving into management positions, and they will not hire people who are resistant. It’s too much work, too much energy, and it hurts production and the bottom line. If you need to work in the market to make a living more in the next decade, you CANNOT afford to be resistant any longer. Your livelihood could depend on it.

  16. sue on August 5, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    And you deserve to be taking that vacation! Have fun!

    I love this post, Rachelle. Although new technology sometimes makes me want to through my laptop at the wall, most of the time I get this wonderful sense of achievement when I tackle and solve some slightly-techie problem. How great to know that it’s good for my brain, too!

  17. Ashen on August 5, 2013 at 10:31 AM

    Yes, it’s good to remember that half of the world’s population have no internet access. I grew up without TV. So I guess I managed to jump across some awe-inspiring obstacles along the way.

  18. Dan Erickson on August 5, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    I stick with it for a couple reasons. 1. It’s fun. I find it a challenge to learn, use, and gain better understanding of social networks, blogging, and all things technical. 2. I stay in touch. I have friends and family, and now followers, all over the country, even the world, social networks are amazing. I could never have kept up with all these people 10 years ago. 3. I’m a writer and it’s another form of writing.

  19. Elissa on August 5, 2013 at 1:11 AM

    A reason to shun cell phones? How about living in an area where there is no reception? The problem with everyone embracing technology is that the technology is not yet universally available. I’m no Luddite, and it bothers me a wee bit that people assume I’m a technophobe when I just happen to live on the edge of nowhere. At least I have internet (albeit slow, steam-driven service).

  20. Chris Mentzer on August 5, 2013 at 12:39 AM

    Great article, ya durn whippersnapper!!