“I Don’t Do Computers” – Talking Tech
September 14, 2009 2 Comments
“I don’t do computers.”
This declaration frustrates me. I hear it everywhere, from colleagues, constituents, family and friends. I hear it from people who don’t like computers, don’t understand them, or just don’t want to use them, and prefer to use more traditional methods of communication and information sharing.
I often hear this issue pegged as a “generational thing.” But I don’t think that tells the whole story.
The difference I notice between the “doers” (those who are comfortable with and like to use computers) and the “don’ters” (those described above) is a fundamental willingness or unwillingness to…test the technology waters. To try things. To investigate. To just “see what happens” when it comes to computers. In my limited observations, I notice that those who are comfortable working with computers are more willing to try out new software features: click the buttons, test the boundaries, to try to “break” things. The don’ters want to know exactly how something should work before they take the plunge.
The cover of the September 7 New Yorker depicts elderly folks taking a language course. But the language in question is modern tech-speak. They’re seated at computers practicing their LOLs and WTFs and OMGs. While the concept is funny to those “in the know,” it makes me wonder – is this really a generational issue? Or is it a matter of how we learn? Would a don’ter find a real-life course such as the one depicted on the cover useful? Maybe a printed manual to explain Twitter? I suppose this personality type is the target market for the “Missing Manual“ series of books. A “doer” would shun such documentation as a waste of time.
Neither of these approaches is right or wrong – it’s just a communication issue. It may not be generational (point of fact: my 94 year old great, great aunt sends emails daily, and has a cell phone) but an issue of how people learn. Take all of this into consideration when working with folks from different technology comfort levels.
Doers: find a way to communicate issues and interest in technology to the don’ters in a way that makes them more comfortable. Give examples. Show how things work. Use visual aids. Give demonstrations. Don’t dismiss them as disinterested.
Don’ters: Be willing to try a new technology or software. Dive in. Make a profile. See what’s there. Ask good questions. Try not to dig in your heels and get frustrated when the answer isn’t obvious.
All: share your experiences with such issues in the comments.