“I Don’t Do Computers” – Talking Tech

“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.

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2 Responses to “I Don’t Do Computers” – Talking Tech

  1. Liz: Great post. Two things have helped me with this: 1) Having an amazing doer in my life as a role model/guide. It’s not only made me a doer but helped me convert some dont’ers. 2) Don’ters are often people who like to get it right on the first try (guilty as charged), so they are reluctant to dive into the unknown. What helps is to know that trial and error, work arounds, etc are actually the way you’re *supposed* to do it.

    • Elizabeth Allen says:

      Thank you Andrea. You make a great point: in many cases, there is no one right way to do things. In fact, part of what makes social media interesting is discovering the answers collaboratively. Experimentation, trial and error, and user generated contributions are all part of the process. For example, users came up with hashtags on Twitter – they weren’t an original feature of the service. Users came up with it organically to make the site more useful for them (us).

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