Study: Young people, men more optimistic when tech fails

Pew Research finds that younger people get less frustrated with tech failures and men are more optimistic than women that they will fix it.

Elinor at computer
CNET News reporter Elinor Mills knows what it's like to feel frustrated by computer glitches. James Martin/CNET News

When faced with a technology breakdown, levels of optimism and frustration vary depending on age and gender, according to a new study to be released on Sunday.

That's the straight lead. The one I was pondering writing is:

I'm a late-baby-boomer woman and I hate technology.

That's not entirely true. I love technology when it works and is easy to use. But I get annoyed when my computer gets jangy or my wireless goes down. And apparently, I'm not unusual for my demographic.

"Younger users are generally much more optimistic than older adults when their gadgets fail," says the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project which sponsored the survey of 2,054 U.S. adults.

"Although young adults age 18 to 29 years old are no more likely to be able to fix devices on their own, they were significantly more likely to be confident that they were on the right path to fixing it, and they were significantly less likely than older adults to feel discouraged or confused about fixing devices," according to the report.

There is no data on whether they were successful in fixing the devices, only that they thought they could. (Elsewhere, the data shows that of the 52 percent of tech users who are comfortable learning to use new devices on their own, 35 percent fix broken technology on their own.)

Meanwhile, the gap between the percentages feeling confident when their devices fail versus discouraged and confused narrowed as the age ranges went up.

Now for gender-based differences:

"Men were significantly more likely than women to be confident about the problem solving (76 percent versus 68 percent), but they were no less likely than women to report being confused, discouraged, or impatient during the course of trying to solve the problem," the report says.

Also, men were more likely than women (33 percent to 22 percent) to fix the gadget problems by themselves. Women were more likely than men (18 percent to 12 percent) to seek help from friends or family.

What about income and education? No significant differences were found in emotional reactions to device failure there.

Overall, 48 percent of those surveyed said they need help setting up a new device and learning how to use it.

And of the people who reported having problems with their Internet connection, computer, cell phone, PDA, or other gadget, how did they solve their problems?

Fifteen percent didn't get the problem fixed at all; 38 percent said they got help from customer support; 28 percent fixed the problem themselves; 15 percent got aid from family or friends; and 2 percent found what they needed to solve the problem online.

Other studies have also explored the difference in approaches to technology by men and women.

 

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