Commentary

Navigating The Tech 'Personal Experience' Minefield (Boom!)

I saw this unattributed study stat in a story this week: "34% of millennials said they need to have a personal experience with a tech brand before making a purchase, compared to 25% of Gen X and 17% of baby boomers." Unfortunately, the author did not go on to define what millennials mean by having "a personal experience with a tech brand." So naturally, I am confused (again).

As I look around my office, I am surrounded by 30 or 40 different tech brands, none of which I had a personal experience with before I bought them. To be clear, it has been purely platonic since we got together.  (Although I think I love the Bose speakers connected to my PC, but you never know if it is real or just another case of "falling in love with love.")

It’s very hard to have a personal experience in an electronics store — especially Best Buy, which hands down is the least romantic place on the planet. It’s  kind of like being in the red-light district in Amsterdam, where you can look but you can't touch. Not that touching, say, a printer or external hard drive in any way raises my dopamine or vasopressin levels.

Now there I go, such a male boomer mistake, characterizing a personal experience in terms of physical contact. Since I stopped going to church a long while ago, I forget about Agape love, although I tend to view most tech products as agnostic if not outright atheistic, especially if they are from Silicon Valley -- which I read is the playground of heathens, heretics, idolaters and paynims. But I digress.

I once did try to strike up a conversation with a laptop at Best Buy — you know, just to kind of see if I could open the door to something a little more personal as the evening wore on.  But while I tossed out any number of topics that seem to resonate with everybody else, like, "Hey, how about that asswipe in the White House?" or "Have you seen ‘Black Panther’ yet?" or "Can you tell me why in the hell Wendy stays with that lard-assed Chuck, especially when you KNOW she has a secret crush on Ax?"  Nada, niente, nichts.

If I am going to have a personal experience, there has to be at least a little effort from the other side, no?  I saw another guy having a really animated conversation with an Amazon Echo. It had me sniffing my armpits and reaching for a breath mint.

The problem these days is that if you make even a vaguely suggestive remark to, say, a flatbed scanner or calculator, you can find yourself on the losing end of a social media campaign accusing you of inappropriate behavior. What's the point of the 14-day return policy if I only spend two weeks frozen with anxiety that even the act of inserting batteries might somehow be misconstrued?

I suspect millennials are far more adept at navigating these treacherous personal experience waters than boomers, who can remember when you took a TI-84 calculator into your office and closed the door — and it was considered no big deal.

Don't even get me started about what's going on with electronics on the Internet. But let's just say it has taken the personal out of the experience.

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