A Technologically Challenged Blogger Sharing Words of Wisdom

(12 minute read)

There is a reason I love reading historical fiction and watching old tv shows like “The Gilmore Girls.” Things were simpler. I did not use the word “easier” because living in the 1800’s was anything but easy. Life was not as complicated.There were no cell phones or computers in Stars Hollow. It is comforting to return to the days before everyone walked with a phone in hand and you could be reached anywhere at any time. This tech savvy world we live in is fast paced and if you don’t adapt you’ll be left behind. Navigating the internet, using smart phones, and even following robotic prompts on customer service calls can send a person like me to the looney bin. It is not that I am old, age is only partly to do with it. My frustrations arise because I am constantly hitting confusing crossroads and roadblocks, taking circuitous detours only to find out I took the wrong turn out of the gate. This is why I like farm life. Simple: provide the animals with food, water, a clean shelter, and attention. A short drive over to Tractor Supply and you’ve got all you need (and maybe even some beef jerky and a new t-shirt that announces your love for chickens). Full disclosure, I do use technology a little in our farming, if you count the automatic chicken door, the chicken toys I have ordered on Amazon, and all the goat, horse and chicken videos I have watched on Youtube. All right, I guess I do like a little of what technology has brought us. This blog would not be here without it. 

Communication and connection with family living far apart has directly been affected by technological advances. When I moved across the country at the turn of the century we bought our first home computer. Between that large behemoth of a machine that took minutes of noisily booting up and our, also vocal, fax machine, we were able to send messages back and forth with my parents. I remember my mom tracing her hand and drawing pictures of what she was doing in California and faxing it to us. We excitedly received her greeting and returned our own traced hands and drawings by fax. I composed long emails and Christmas letters on that big white computer. It was not without occasional frustration (mostly user error). In one instance, I was troubleshooting with tech support about something gone wrong. I had the cordless phone cradled in the nook between my ear and my neck, sitting on the floor of the home office, with both arms bear hugging the big tower. While attempting to reset something in the back my thumb got stuck. Stuck, as in could not dislodge, it was like the bamboo Chinese finger trap puzzle, increasing its grip the more I pulled. It hurt. I winced and cried out to the tech support on the phone. He attempted to assist me with directions. It would not release. I began to panic. My toddler was on the sofa watching morning cartoons and the baby was napping upstairs in his crib. “Ma’am,if you are in pain and stuck and nobody is able to help you maybe you should call 911.” In a short matter of time three handsome young firemen entered our messy toy strewn house to find me in my pink fluffy robe sitting there straddling the tower with my thumb stuck in the back. I am pretty sure it was a first for them. Somehow they were able to release my pinched thumb. They are lifesavers after all. It was an exciting morning for my son to see three real firemen with hats, coats and boots rescuing Mommy from the computer tower.

I cry when I am frustrated. My tears are sometimes accompanied by bad words and crazy cackling lost-my-mind laughter. Picture me sitting in front of my computer, this is where the usually chill happy grizzlybearma blogger can go off the rails. Why does technology frustrate me so much? I do not remember any other time in my life that not understanding something got me so worked up. I usually figured things out with the help from someone with more experience or consulted a book. Why is this newborn baby crying so much? Dr. Brazelton suggested more burping or carrying him around in a sling. How can I get this toddler to stay in his own bed at night? Dr. Ferber provided a whole set of directions curbing the escape-from-the-toddler-bed shenanigans. How do I get this car into four wheel drive so I can get up my steep driveway in the first snowy day after moving from California to Connecticut? Read the Suburban’s owner manual in the glove compartment. Need to get my drivers license in that New England state we moved to? Study the DMV booklet. That last one did frustrate me a bit because I failed the first time taking the test. It happened to be on a computer showing a big red X when incorrectly answering the driving law questions. Three strikes and you’re out. The large bellied officer with the waxed handlebar mustache stepped forward to inform me of my failure.  There may have been a few tears shed. I asked for the paper test when I returned a few days later. 

The point is that in my lifetime I have not experienced as many brow-furrowing, head tilting, puzzled moments as I have using technology. Even appliance problems have seemed easier to solve (call for a repairman or troubleshoot with the manuals I am good about saving). But put an iPhone in my hand and things get complicated for me. A few years back I was having a problem of not hearing a lot of my calls, only some calls would ring. Puzzled, I asked my daughter for help. She took one look at my settings (laughing), “You had it set on only favorited contacts. Oh, Mom.” Fixed, but another little chip away at my confidence with technology. 

I believe the root of my apprehension with computers has to do with my past (and present) inability to master something that keeps growing in complexity. As soon as I even slightly catch on, things accelerate. Several years ago, I had all of our family movies converted to DVDs. I took a large box of VHS tapes, little video camcorder cassette tapes, and Super 8 tapes to a professional who put them all into DVD storage. It was not cheap. I was on top of it, no obsolete technology was going to thwart my forward progress. Then recently I learned that DVD’s are not future proof either. They should all be digitized…wow. I am behind again. Which brings me to my latest endeavor into the tech world that has got my head spinning.

In keeping with the Freudenthal Family traditions that I started with the first of the four kids, I am creating a movie for our college graduate. I used iMovie, and put pictures and old home movies to music. It is a special keepsake commemorating the college years following his childhood in our home. Despite the wrestling match I have to endure with technology I do love going down memory lane creating these movies. This is my fourth time which should make it easy, right? One would think so. In the three years since I have used iMovie, it has changed, and perhaps I have changed. I do not remember how to “rip” DVDs, or how to pair my music playlists and photo albums. The biggest obstacle which is ironically an advance in technology is “the cloud.” Do you look up in the sky when you wonder about your stuff stored in the cloud? Do you wonder why you get an email telling you that you need to buy more storage space for all your stuff in the cloud? Do you look up and wonder how big that cloud is anyway? And are you reminded about the cloud tightly holding onto your pictures and videos, making you wait for them to be downloaded if you want to watch them? I know I should understand this concept better. It makes me uneasy. I would rather print them all and store them in the closet with all of the other pictures in boxes chronicling the pre-digital years of my family.

The problem I was having with the cloud is that He was not sharing the pictures and videos between my devices. He was not helping me understand why. He did not tell me that I had to update all my devices and make sure they had the same Apple ID. The nice lady from tech support told me those things. Then my son walked me through a back up to a separate hard drive, which had to be done before updating the operating system. 24 hours later and the cloud finally opened up His tight grip on my stuff. So then I was back in business with my movie editing. But the whole ordeal was exhausting, and sucked the energy out of my creative flow. 

I learned a few important technology tips through this arduous journey that I would like to share with others. If you fact check me and I am wrong, chalk it up to my technology naïveté but please do not correct me as my tech skin is thin.

  1. A Byte is bigger than a Bit, and Gigabytes are larger than Megabytes, then you’ve got Terabytes, but the granddaddy of them all is the Yottabyte which is 1 septillion bytes. This information proves helpful in gauging storage space for hard drive back ups and inside the Cloud.
  2. When something goes awry with technology just power it off, and then back on again. Works more often than you think.
  3. Put it down. Walk away. Take a break.
  4. Call for assistance. Tech support, online tutorials and helpful children can lead you in the right direction.
  5. If you need to test your keyboard by using all letters then type out this sentence: The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog. 
  6. You are never too old to learn how to use technology even though it may feel insurmountable. This past week we walked my 80 year old mother-in-law through her first ever zoom call. It was a huge feat! There she was, sitting in her Arkansas kitchen with her iPad, on the screen with her daughter in California and her son in Virginia, surrounded by her uber tech savvy grandkids. Her face lit up when she got the video to work. It will be even better the next time we zoom together if she is able to figure out the audio.

Advancement in technology is progress. I just wish it was not so frustrating to figure out things. It makes me want to do all of my writing with pen and paper. I often do that. But how would I publish this blog without the computer and internet? I also love Alexa, Siri, and my GPS lady. They do simplify my life quite a bit

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