Technophobia Computer Illiteracy

Technophobia and Computer Illiteracy

It’s one of my blind spots whenever I see technophobia or computer illiteracy. It always surprises me when someone isn’t using technology that could make their life significantly better. Or when someone can’t grasp a technological concept.

Computer Illiteracy – Hard To Believe

I find it difficult to believe that people would prefer to write checks and put them in the mailbox and pay for a stamp.  When almost every bank offers on-line bill paying.  It’s inconceivable to me that people think they need to double-click on web links.  I’m never less than dumbstruck when someone will type a full URL into a Google search window.

Are people afraid they’ll become slaves to their computer…walking around like zombies staring at their smart-phones all day?

Is there a certain mindset or age where the brain just doesn’t allow for learning of seemingly basic techniques?

How much of the great unknown world of technology does a person need to grasp before it’s no longer scary?

Technophobia Age Gap?

At 60 years old, I find myself to be right on the cusp of a certain age limit.  It’s not a hard and fast rule, but often the most technophobic are just older than me.  Thaddeus refuses to have a cell phone.  More accurately, he owns a cell phone and leaves it in his glove compartment for emergencies.  My mother is completely flummoxed by texting.  She doesn’t find the navigation buttons on a table at all intuitive. Using an ATM is anathema to her, and unless someone else did it for her, she would never be filing her taxes electronically.  One of the women I worked with at a yarn store could not understand how she had opened 232 browser windows in the course of one day of internet searching.

Don’t get me wrong…there are scary things with technology.  Scams and hacking of peoples’ accounts is getting more and more sophisticated.  So much so that even I am impressed when PayPal is seeming asking for my Userid and Password. So, perhaps caution in the technologically unsure population is a good thing.

Just In Time Technology

I was very fortunate to have jumped into technology early in my career. It was even more fortunate for me to have learned computers during a time before Windows or IOS, so I understand the underpinnings of technology a bit more than others.  It made me understand how data works.  I got to trust technology and understand the concept of GIGO.  Garbage In Garbage Out, or if there was a problem with technology, it was something I had screwed up and could fix.

I have learned to stop judging people who don’t grasp technology.  Well, almost stop judging.  Sometimes I can’t stop myself.  I need to remind myself that technology is only safe for me because of my longtime familiarity with it.

I’m also glad that most of the people that read blogs are less like to be computer illiterate or technophobes.  That way this blog entry won’t offend very many people.

Current Knitting

Made progress on both the button-band/collar on the Tilt Cardigan and the Noro Taio sock.


13 comments on “Technophobia and Computer Illiteracy

  1. I’ve been reading your blog for quite a while now. You often echo my sentiments. This blog post strikes a chord. I’m not a techno genius, but an ardent user. I am frustrated by my peers, in the 70+ range, who isolate themselves from family, friends and the world by proudly touting their distaste for the evils of technology. They seem to miss the point that they can decide when and how much it is a part of their daily lives. Whew! Thanks for the opportunity to vent!

    1. Not being “tethered” to a cell phone or computer can be a very positive thing for some. But isolating themselves or avoiding technology because they are anxious or fearful seems to be counter-productive. My mom does just fine with her limited technological usage and still stays in touch with us. And I have an older friend that is unusually adventurous in figuring out how to best utilize technology for himself. I’m even having to find a balance between an “evil” amount of screen time and focusing mainly on the real world.

  2. Yes, just aroun 60 seems to be a cutoff. My husband and I both learned some coding in college and have had personal computers since they arrived on the scene, back when they weren’t so plug -and-play friendly.

    My slightly older friends and those without a reason to have used computers early on are much more tentative or even negative about them.

  3. I think it’s important to remember that the term technology means simply, as Merriam-Webster puts it, “the practical application of knowledge” or “a manner of accomplishing a task especially using technical processes, methods, or knowledge.” That being said, people who prefer not to use the latest technology are not necessarily technophobes, preferring rather to use older, more familiar technology to accomplish tasks. Our frequent habit of referring only to the latest technology as “technology” sometimes obscures that fact.

    I am computer literate at 72 and regularly use my PC and iPad for research, communication, entertainment and purchasing but also sometimes prefer to pay bills by check and physical post because I enjoy the process. I have a cell phone but have no need for the capacities and expense of a smart phone. I recognize the advantages of ereaders in terms of instant gratification and portability but prefer to read physical books for a number of reasons. I do find, as do you Joe, that I have to be aware of how much time I’m spending online. I find it easy to get “sucked in.”

    I’m not personally acquainted with anyone who regards new technology as evil, although I’m sure they exist, and most of my contemporaries have mastered enough newer technologies to use them for the same purposes I do. Perhaps as I continue to age my willingness to spend time learning new things will alter or I’ll lose the capacity to do so. What remaining time I have left will tell.

  4. As an educator, and a generational peer, age is a factor. It’s not that older people can’t, it’s that they don’t want to. I used to work in corporate. It’s not that the MBA/JD doesn’t know that the green button on the copier means go. He just doesn’t want to. It’s a big issue in customer service. They won’t order anything online, make an appointment, pay a bill because they don’t see a person. They want the person, not the device. My mother pays her utilities in person! Cash or money order. 🙄 She doesn’t know how to leave a voicemail. She thinks the recording is a rude “Americana” who doesn’t speak Spanish. 😐 Heck, look at the geezers running our government. How many really understand what a server is? Or want to?

  5. Just had to make a comment. I am 79 and use a desktop (I am typing on now) so I can have Excel and Word especially; a tablet so I can have fun and info and books where ever I am; a cell phone, of course, as love to text and message besides phoning but will admit there are some features I have not used nor do I think I really want to — like voice to text. Have an iPod also with twice as much music on my computer as on the iPod but need some with me. Did work in an office when computers came in so had to learn for the work but do enjoy them. Nice sometimes to have those conveniences when I just sit back and knit while watching You Tube for example. There are times I wish they would stop innovating so I can get caught up with everything.

  6. Hey, your readers have raised some interesting points following this post. After a career in enterprise computing, anyone would be hard pressed to describe me as a technophobe, BUT …

    *** long pause as I consider the fallout from what I’m about to say ***

    … technology implementation is often a cause for concern. If I take a bill payment into Janis—the bank teller that I’ve been dealing with for years who asks me about my cat—and something goes wrong, I can go back to Janis to ask her what happened.

    If I use my bank’s self-service site and something goes wrong, on whom may I rely for answers? More than likely, I am going to phone or ‘chat’ with a disembodied person or robot, who will first ask me what I did wrong.

    Now, we professional techs like to pretend that the human component is removed from the process, but instead that part of the puzzle is just obfuscated. There are dozens of business or technology process people along the way that might have made an error that blocked my bill payment.

    How does Mom defend her self-service actions and find the right disembodied person or robot to ask for a fix.

    Knowing all that, I recently setup a new automated payment for a life insurance policy. I experienced a touch of anxiety because failure means losing my insurance. So I contacted my insurance rep, and asked him to verify the automated payment for me. He cares if my payment goes through. But it isn’t always that easy.

    1. Another excellent point.

      It seems much of this post was poorly thought out.

      Thanks to readers’ input, I’ve come to understand that both my ideas about reticent use of newer technologies and my thoughts on computer literacy has many faults.

      I truly couldn’t see past my own ideas on how useful automation was to understand that the definition of “useful” is highly personal.

  7. Let me tell you a story about people and technology.

    My employer is required by law to give me a “pay stub” when I am paid, that shows how my pay was calculated and the amounts of any payroll deductions.

    Payroll for this company is done through a company that specializes in this. Their service commitment is to my employer, but not my employer’s employees.

    So If I want to get my pay stub, I create an account with the payroll company — username, password, etc — and I log in on my laptop to get my pay stub. Apparently you can do this through a smart phone or tablet, but the process is different than when using a desktop or laptop, and no-one can find the instructions for how to do that. (Seriously.)

    So my employer is technically providing me with a pay stub.

    If, when I’m doing a log-in, I make an error entering my user-name and/or password 3 times, I am locked out of the system until the password is reset. My employer cannot reset passwords. The payroll company’s service commitment is to my employer, not the employees, so any request to reset passwords goes (grudgingly) to the bottom of the support request queue.

    Some of my coworkers do not own desktop or laptop machines. They cannot access their paystubs from their phones or tablets because there are no instructions available for how to do that. They are uncomfortable going to a publicly accessible computer in a library, or to a friend or family member’s computer to access their paystubs. (My employer will give a printed copy of the annual pay statement for income tax preparation to employees who ask. But will not give a printed pay stub.) And several feel that it is the employer’s obligation under the law to give them a pay stub, rather than making one available if you have the technology available to access it.

    I have coworkers who have not seen a paystub in the 5 years they have worked for the company.

    In the 7 months I have worked for this company, I have found 3 significant payroll errors that needed to be fixed. But only because I access my pay stubs online.

    1. This is a perfect example of why someone would shy away from technology. But it’s more a story of how badly technology can be foist upon us unwillingly. And also more a story of a really shitty policy for a company to have. In some States here in the U.S. it used to be illegal not to offer a hardcopy of a pay stub. Since I worked mostly for companies who employed in every State, it wasn’t easy to implement this kind of bad policy.

      I LOVED having my pay stub come electronically. It was great being able to access year’s of pay records.

      But, also, having implemented a lot of Human Resources/Payroll systems in my career, I never saw an employer require that all employees access their pay records electronically. And I would have highly recommended against it if they had.

  8. I agree with Jacquie — “It’s just that they don’t want to.” When I have a “system” that works for me, I’m wedded to it for a really long time. Why mess with success? I use my computer and my IPad all the time but when something doesn’t work (which eventually ALWAYS happens) I do NOT want to spend my time searching for the fix. It’s not intuitive to me. There are too many other exciting things in my life. Eons ago I was one of the first people in my company to learn a computer. It was all “we’re going to be paperless” and make the computer easy so anyone can walk into a job off he street and be employable on a computer. I’m still waiting for that to happen! But I always thank the powers that be for access to all the wonders of the world which I can visit through the Internet. (I use my cell phone, which is 10+ years old the same as Thaddeus.)

    And to Ted: EXACTLY! Why would anyone go through this nonsense if they don’t have to? All the while we are being told computers are “faster,” “more efficient.” That is only true when everything works correctly! I guess I’m impatient and a pessimist!

  9. Jacquie is exactly right. I want the person. I believe that when you buy the product you are not just buying the product but a certain amount of service that goes with it. For the same reason I don’t return my shopping cart to the corral. When I paid four bucks for the gallon of milk, I did not just pay for the milk-I paid for an employee to come out and get the cart for me as well. One thing about the younger generation, they may have always had the tech-but they never had the personal level of service that we grew up with and became accustomed to. People used to pump your gas for you. I don’t desire convenience-I desire service.

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