When it comes to technology, Robin Groenke is what is known as an early adopter, someone who's not afraid to try a new tool or process.
She blogs, she tweets, she's on Facebook and Foursquare. She uses her several computers (as well as tablets, an iPod, an iPhone and an e-reader) to shop for gadgets, buy groceries, watch TV shows, share photos, read magazines, listen to audiobooks, track her fitness progress and manage her finances. She makes distant friends via online social networks, several of whom have showed up to stay at her home in Orono. She met her significant other through Match.com.
All of which make her a little unusual, at least for a 55-year-old.
"I think that's how I've gotten to know so many younger people," she said. "Ninety percent of my friends who are my age are not as comfortable or adept at it."
Groenke started developing her tech skills about 20 years ago. When she and her brother took over the management of their ailing father's manufacturing business, payroll was still being done by hand. Seeing that more businesses were moving to computers, Groenke realized that eventually she'd either have to pay someone else to do it for the company or learn to do it herself. A self-described "control freak," she chose the latter. She took a few community education classes, bought some software, "then it was like, whoa, here's what I can do with this."
Next thing you know, she was not only doing the payroll and accounts electronically, but she had built the company's website.
Groenke's not a big believer in reading manuals. To master a new technology, she just starts fiddling around with it, like a teenager playing a video game.
"I never, never crack a book open," she said. "I just turn it on and go for it."
Where does she get the confidence that she'll eventually figure it out?
"See to me, to use that word, 'confidence' -- I'm not sure that's the right word," she said. "But I'm not in any way shape or form afraid of it. It kind of puzzles me that anybody would be. I see it as a tool, for so many aspects of your life."