Etiquette Hell

General Etiquette => Family and Children => Topic started by: Pen^2 on March 07, 2013, 09:26:54 PM

Title: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Pen^2 on March 07, 2013, 09:26:54 PM
So, my MIL is a doctor. Highly intelligent, still working, all the rest of it. However, she is very much not a computer person. Until two years ago, she had never touched a computer. I spent god knows how many hours teaching her how to use the mouse, how to click, how the keyboard works, and so on, so she had basic functionality and could email old schoolmates and Google recipes (these two things are literally the only things she uses the computer for). I have written up pages with instructions for these in case she forgets, with the steps broken down ludicrously, and pictures for everything.

Every now and again, we will get a phone call from her about a computer issue. Now, computer issues are frustrating enough normally to deal with over the phone, but this is a woman who will be convinced that her email isn't working when it turns out she is actually just forgetting to click the mouse, and is only hovering the cursor over the "login" button. These phone calls typically take an hour.

The most annoying thing is that, despite being a perfectly intelligent person, she mentally just switches off when it comes to computers. I don't know if it is learned helplessness or what. But it certainly is annoying.

Last night she rang with a computer 'emergency'. After half an hour, we figure out that her internet had automatically wiped its history (as it does periodically) and as a result she couldn't get to Hotmail. Easy to fix: just type the URL in the address bar. I had already written this out for her a year ago, actually. But MIL was very, very uncooperative.

(At this point I already knew she had her browser open on the screen)
Me: OK, so look at your screen. Are you looking at it?
MIL: (after a 30 second pause) Mmm.. (very flat and uncommitted)
Me: You can see the screen right now?
MIL: (another long pause) Mmmm...
Me: ...OK, well, right up near the top of the screen is a long white rectangle with writing in it. Can you see that? Do you know what I'm referring to?
MIL: (Pause) Mmm...
Me: Move the mouse over the writing. Have you done that?
MIL: ...Mmm...
Me: Click on the writing. Tell me when you've done that.
MIL: ....Mmm...
Me: Well, now press the backspace key and hold it down until all the writing is gone. Let me know when you've done that.
MIL: ....Mmmm...
Me: OK, now type: www dot hotmail dot com (said letter by letter, slowly, and repeated a few times while MIL doesn't respond)
MIL: ...Mmm...
Me: Now just press the enter key, and you'll go to your email. All fixed! Did it work?
MIL: (Pause) No. I don't know what to do, so I haven't done anything.

It turns out she had done none of what I had been saying. This continued throughout the rest of the phone call. She says she has a problem and wants me to tell her how to fix it, and when I do this, she shuts down, mumbles at me, and ignores what I say until the end, when she reveals that she's done none of it at all. Gaah!

Would it be rude, once she starts in her whole pausing and obviously not listening/acting upon my instructions thing, to say something like, "you know what, MIL? It doesn't sound like you're listening here. You're obviously quite tired right now, so I'll call back tomorrow and hopefully you'll be up to it. Good night!"

These phone calls are taking an hour, literally, when they should be five minutes, even to a computer illiterate person. Things like "look at the top of the screen" can take ten minutes to get her to do. Even "go into the computer room" is hard to accomplish. It's bizarre and bloody annoying, and I am sick of our lives being disrupted over this. Could I say something like this to her to cut the call off? Hopefully we can acclimatise her, as it were, to listening and actually following simple instructions instead of wasting an hour.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Nikko-chan on March 07, 2013, 09:36:05 PM
I don't think it would be rude at all. It sounds like this is quite frustrating for both of you. And I don't know why, if she has it written down, she keeps calling you. You might even possibly be able to say that. "Oh you need help with EasyComputeryThing? That's on that paper I gave you. It tells you exactly how to do it. Talk to you later."

I am sure another ehellion has a better way of putting it.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: oceanus on March 07, 2013, 09:39:37 PM
Oh, boy, do you have my sympathies, OP.  BTDT (long ago with a stubborn, anti-computer spoiled/coddled co-worker), but I'll spare you the story.

Quote
Would it be rude, once she starts in her whole pausing and obviously not listening/acting upon my instructions thing, to say something like, "you know what, MIL? It doesn't sound like you're listening here. You're obviously quite tired right now, so I'll call back tomorrow and hopefully you'll be up to it. Good night!"

This would be okay, I think, as long as your voice doesn't reveal frustration.   The bolded..well, not sure I would say that.

Maybe others have better suggestion.  Stay strong!!  :)
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Bluenomi on March 07, 2013, 09:40:18 PM
Stop helping. She clearly isn't interested in getting help, she probably expects you to go and visit her to do it and when you don't offer to race over she acts all PA about it.

Tell her she's got written instructions, if she follows those she'll be fine and change the topic or cheererly say goodbye and hang up. She's not going to stop on her own, you need to be firm.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: blue2000 on March 07, 2013, 09:43:10 PM
If you have written the instructions out for her, I'd refer her to those every single time. And then hang up. She can take as much time as she wants mumbling to a piece of paper.

If she has lost them or has a problem she has no notes for, try for a few minutes, then go with the "You seem too tired to work this through today, talk to you tomorrow!". By all means, do NOT let her hold you hostage for an hour because she does not want to follow instructions!


(Side note here - my mother was very much into 'learned helplessness' and used to bother me for the most ridiculous little things - she actually admitted she did this on purpose. ::) Somehow when I couldn't help her she magically found a way to fix it or call someone else. Definitely worth it to say no.)
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Sharnita on March 07, 2013, 09:48:27 PM
Could you find a local teen she could pay to come over and "fix" her problems? SOmebody who would be willing to give her the time and attention she seems to be craving.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Pen^2 on March 07, 2013, 09:53:06 PM
Stop helping. She clearly isn't interested in getting help, she probably expects you to go and visit her to do it and when you don't offer to race over she acts all PA about it.

Tell her she's got written instructions, if she follows those she'll be fine and change the topic or cheererly say goodbye and hang up. She's not going to stop on her own, you need to be firm.

To race over to her would require two flights and a train. 14 hours is the shortest time this can be accomplished in, if all the transfers match up perfectly, so it's not this at all. And she is not a social person; she's not wanting attention. She seems to genuinely hate having to call, but then when she does, she becomes a dithering idiot, making it worse for everyone involved. She dislikes having visitors--be they us or some local computer-savvy teen. We're actually concerned about when she gets older, since a maid or cleaner would help out a lot but she would detest having someone else in her home.

There are things which I didn't write down because I just didn't think of them (e.g. if the computer automatically updates itself and subsequently clears its internet history, screwing things up for her), and every so often the issue is actually one that she actually does need help with.

OK, I might go with what oceanus suggested: "you know what, MIL? You're obviously quite tired right now, so I'll call back tomorrow and hopefully you'll be up to it. Good night!"

I really want her to get the point that if she's going to be ridiculous, we'll just shut down at our end and she'll have to wait a before trying again. But, as I said, she isn't social, and I don't want to be rude about it and damage an already faint relationship.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: oceanus on March 07, 2013, 09:59:37 PM
Could you find a local teen she could pay to come over and "fix" her problems? SOmebody who would be willing to give her the time and attention she seems to be craving.

This is a VERY good idea. 
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: CrazyDaffodilLady on March 07, 2013, 10:15:25 PM
To start with, don't take "hmmm" for an answer.  Don't continue until she acknowledges with a "yes" that she's done what you told her to do. 
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: WillyNilly on March 07, 2013, 10:18:58 PM
These phone calls are taking an hour, literally, when they should be five minutes, even to a computer illiterate person. Things like "look at the top of the screen" can take ten minutes to get her to do. Even "go into the computer room" is hard to accomplish. It's bizarre and bloody annoying, and I am sick of our lives being disrupted over this. Could I say something like this to her to cut the call off? Hopefully we can acclimatise her, as it were, to listening and actually following simple instructions instead of wasting an hour.

Did it ever occur to you she might not want the help you are forcing on her?  It sounds like you end up badgering her to go to the computer and follow your directions and get back online. Perhaps she is calling and saying the computer doesn't work because she wants to hear "its ok, you don't need to use it" and just chat?

I'm all for computer literacy, but lets face it there is a prejudice against people under a certain age, especially people at a certain education/career level, who aren't comfortable using one. Perhaps she feels pushed into using a computer when what she really wants is permission to not use one. Not that she needs "permission" officially, but just that its this huge society pressure, and perhaps she just really isn't in to it and wants to know she's still a valid and valued whole person even if she doesn't email.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Miss Tickle on March 07, 2013, 10:22:43 PM
1) After you give her a step and she says Mmmm, ask, "Did you (do whatever?)" If she says Mmmm stop and count to ten. If she hasn't said anything in the count ask the question again. Repeat until she responds in the positive, or hangs up in frustration. Don't continue with any steps until she stops playing her game. Cut her off after 30 minutes, and each call thereafter a minute sooner.

2) Change the subject, and beandip her computer questions in favour of a good chat.

3) Hand the phone to her son.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Pen^2 on March 07, 2013, 10:37:32 PM
Did it ever occur to you she might not want the help you are forcing on her?  It sounds like you end up badgering her to go to the computer and follow your directions and get back online. Perhaps she is calling and saying the computer doesn't work because she wants to hear "its ok, you don't need to use it" and just chat?

I'm all for computer literacy, but lets face it there is a prejudice against people under a certain age, especially people at a certain education/career level, who aren't comfortable using one. Perhaps she feels pushed into using a computer when what she really wants is permission to not use one. Not that she needs "permission" officially, but just that its this huge society pressure, and perhaps she just really isn't in to it and wants to know she's still a valid and valued whole person even if she doesn't email.

I don't think she doesn't want the help... A conversation might be:
(phone rings)
Me: Hello, Pen speaking?
MIL: The computer/internet/email doesn't work! Tell me what to do!
Me: OK, well, are you in the computer room now?
MIL: (long pause) Mmm...
ad nauseum. If she is explicitly asking for help and actually wanting something else, then I have no way of knowing, although in every other aspect of life she is blunt and incapable of subtleties like that. And I should reiterate: she does not want attention. I won't go into the dynamics of her peculiar relationship with DH (if you can call it a relationship), but she literally cannot socialise, hates socialising, hates spending time with any other people, and will generally ignore any letters or phone calls from us to avoid having to talk to other people when it isn't necessary. She is extremely set in her solitude, which is fine, but she absolutely hates spending any time with any other people unless she absolutely has to (e.g. work). I cannot emphasise this enough: this is not an attention ploy. The concept of 'just chat' is foreign to her, since she literally cannot chat or make small talk. Think eccentric mathematician: brilliant at her job, but is a recluse who can't socialise her way out of a wet paper bag. This also unfortunately means she is immune to bean dipping, since she ignores anything that is said that she doesn't see as relevant to the subject at hand. This also means she doesn't hang up on a phone call until she has got what she wants.

That said, I think you're right about her insecurities: she could probably feel put off by the whole thing, and as a result, she shuts down so completely. She badgered me and her son into helping her get a computer and setting it all up so she could find recipes and so on. If she doesn't call us with an emergency, neither us nor her ever mention computer things. Although, if she actually doesn't want to use the computer at all, she wouldn't. I won't go into the hell my husband had as a child because she simply refuses to do things she doesn't want to outside of work. Stubborn and direct to a fault and then some. 'Permission' is not a word she has ever applied to herself.

I have tried not taking 'mmm' for an answer. I spent 15 minutes once just trying to get another response--anything--out of her. She just switches off and becomes a mesmerised zombie or something.

Anyway, I know what I'll say next time this occurs, and hopefully we can start working to a better situation.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: PastryGoddess on March 07, 2013, 10:40:30 PM
These phone calls are taking an hour, literally, when they should be five minutes, even to a computer illiterate person. Things like "look at the top of the screen" can take ten minutes to get her to do. Even "go into the computer room" is hard to accomplish. It's bizarre and bloody annoying, and I am sick of our lives being disrupted over this. Could I say something like this to her to cut the call off? Hopefully we can acclimatise her, as it were, to listening and actually following simple instructions instead of wasting an hour.

Did it ever occur to you she might not want the help you are forcing on her?  It sounds like you end up badgering her to go to the computer and follow your directions and get back online. Perhaps she is calling and saying the computer doesn't work because she wants to hear "its ok, you don't need to use it" and just chat?

I'm all for computer literacy, but lets face it there is a prejudice against people under a certain age, especially people at a certain education/career level, who aren't comfortable using one. Perhaps she feels pushed into using a computer when what she really wants is permission to not use one. Not that she needs "permission" officially, but just that its this huge society pressure, and perhaps she just really isn't in to it and wants to know she's still a valid and valued whole person even if she doesn't email.

If all she wants to do is chat, then she shouldn't be calling and saying she has computer issues.  I don't feel like it's the OP's job to read her MIL's mind to discover the real reason behind a phone call. 

If someone calls me and says they need help with X, then the conversation will be about X.  I shouldn't have to figure out that even though they called about X, they really wanted to talk about D, E, or F

OP I agree with others, stop helping her.  She's not listening to you and you are getting frustrated.  Keep referring her back to the written instructions.  I wouldn't pawn her off on a local teen...that would just be mean :D
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Free Range Hippy Chick on March 07, 2013, 11:17:07 PM
Could you try eliminating Yes/No questions and replacing them with questions that actually require real input? Not always the easiest to do on the fly, but it might force her either to engage with you or to admit that she doesn't want to.

So rather than 'can you see the white box? Click on the writing' you use 'can you see the white box? Tell me what the writing says'. 

Then at least you know she's identified the address line.

Follow it with 'click on the writing and then hit backspace. What happens?'

If she doesn't say 'the box is empty' then she hasn't done it.

'Click in the empty box. What is the cursor doing? Is it a flashing line or an arrow or a picture of a hand or what?' Get an answer.

'Type www dot hotmail dot com.' Don't repeat it more than once. 'Now read that back to me.'

And if she says 'I haven't done any of it', ask her why not and keep pushing for an answer. 'MIL, you said you wanted me to help, and I'm telling you what to do, so why did you not do what I told you?'

And then if she says it's too difficult, I think you could go the route of 'you're obviously tired and frustrated - I do know how irritating it is when the computer won't do what you want. I suggest you leave it until you're feeling better. I'll call you tomorrow and we can try again. or you know, I think that if you look at the written instructions I left you, you'll find in the morning that you can sort this yourself.'

I agree that it's bizarre, but sometimes people do just get it in their heads that something is beyond them, and then, of course, because they've convinced themselves of it, it is. My sister, an intelligent, sensible, rational human being, gets like this over anything to do with finance. Mathematically she's perfectly capable: she can scale a recipe up and down, she can work out how much wallpaper she needs to match a pattern, she can convert miles per gallon in her car into kilometres per litre in the company van. Tell her that her bank account carries compound interest, and it's like her ears cease to connect to her brain which is going 'lalalalanotlistening' inside. She doesn't go 'mmmm' vaguely - she loses her temper. In the long run it was easier and less frustrating for both of us if I just worked out the mortgage interest for her, and her tax accountant must have the patience of a saint not to have hit her on the head with a hard bound copy of the Finance Act long since. (Other legal documents are also available; the value of your investment may go down as well as up.)

Failing all else, there's the software that would allow you to take over her computer from a distance.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: GreenBird on March 07, 2013, 11:54:48 PM
I think my head would explode at someone who wanted me to fix her computer without anyone actually touching it. 

When she calls with a computer problem, I think I'd be saying, "Gosh, I just don't know what to try.  Sorry I can't be of more help."  Repeat as necessary, then change the subject and/or get off the phone.  For whatever reason, she makes it impossible for you to fix the problem, so I think I'd just short-circuit the whole thing by no longer looking like any kind of computer expert to her. 

Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Slartibartfast on March 08, 2013, 12:18:16 AM
My MIL is nowhere near this bad, but she is also intentionally helpless when it comes to computers.  She'd make PA remarks about things she expected DH to drive over and fix - things like the off-brand photo printer she bought on sale five years ago and never got connected properly because DH couldn't find the drivers online and it didn't come with a disk.  "Well I would have had the pictures to show you already, but I can't print them out.  I guess you just haven't had time to come take a look at the printer."  Except DH did look at the printer, five years ago, and concluded that it would take more time than it was worth because MIL wouldn't actually use it anyway.  We tried finding ways to make the computer more appealing and less scary, but we finally came up with the perfect solution:

We bought MIL an iPad.  (Well, FIL bought her the iPad and we bought several apps for her.)  It's great for what she needs (email, looking up TV show websites, and entering whatever contests the morning show announcers tell her to).  She's still not comfortable doing all the fiddly bits like tweaking settings and whatnot, but she's gotten to the point where she's actually downloaded a few apps of her own and she uses email regularly.

We lucked out and found a used iPad cheap, but you might want to consider a Kindle Fire or something like that - cheap, easy browsing and email capabilities without all the frustrations of an actual computer.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Need to Change on March 08, 2013, 12:23:33 AM
My FIL was once an expert user, but has never been able to deal well with any system post-Windows 3.1.  He has additional issues as well, but before those grew more severe, we used to be able to handle some of his problems over the phone.  (Nowadays I must make house calls, and I usually just fix it myself.  But he's only 15 minutes away.)

After way too much trial-and-error, I learned that I had to make sure he was at the computer, and ready to follow some steps and/or answer some questions.

Then I'd say something like:  "Let's try this.  Here's Step 1." (And then I'd number each step before going into details.)  Or, "I'm going to ask you some questions.  First question ..."

Whenever I moved too quickly into Solution Mode and forgot to ease him into the process of actually doing something, all we got was confusion.  His way of handling confusion was different from your Mom's, but the result was the same -- Problem Unsolved.

I have no idea if that's what's happening with your Mom, but if she's not prepped, then she may simply not be hearing your first instructions.  So, by the time she finally does tune in, she's thoroughly lost.

If she hates to make phone calls and chat, then the simple but stressful effort of making a call may be yet another distraction.  Double brain-freeze!

As others have said, your only recourse may be to refer to the already-written notes, broken-record style.  (You may also want to ask her if the notes give her trouble, for any reason.  And always keep copies of the latest version handy for yourself.)
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: crella on March 08, 2013, 01:41:34 AM
With some older folk, there seems to be a total brain-freeze panic reaction to computers. My Dad took to them like a fish to water, and we talked daily for years. My mother wouldn't go near the computer..she was terrified of it, but bluffed out of my teaching her by yelling 'I have NO INTEREST in the computer! NO interest!' . It was her stock reaction. It was unfortunate, because once my Dad passed, she was lost, she had no idea how to use Skype or anything. I finally got her to the point of clicking on Skype, but if something on the desktop had changed, she couldn't do it.

It's frustrating. I hope the written instructions end up being helpful. I know how much time it takes to put those together.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Bethalize on March 08, 2013, 03:30:54 AM
Oh, I feel your pain! My rules is that I will provide technical support for anyone over 65 so long as they install TeamViewer (http://www.teamviewer.com). That program has saved me hours of my life. No,days.

 
Think eccentric mathematician: brilliant at her job, but is a recluse who can't socialise her way out of a wet paper bag. This also unfortunately means she is immune to bean dipping, since she ignores anything that is said that she doesn't see as relevant to the subject at hand. This also means she doesn't hang up on a phone call until she has got what she wants.

I take a strong but shruggy line with people who don't want to learn. I say it's okay, you're smart enough to learn to do something if you want to, and if you don't you'll cope. There are other ways to communicate/get information. It's amazing how interested they get when they realise they have to show some enthusiasm for it to get at all the stuff they are missing out on. In this particular case I think since the normal interaction patterns don't work you need to try something else. Say: "The answer is in the instruction book I wrote you. Page 5. Go and follow it." After all, the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results :-)

Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: bonyk on March 08, 2013, 05:33:00 AM
I have some sympathy for MIL; there are certain topics that make my brain shut off - anything science or financial turns me into a moron.  I don't think again has anything to do with it.

It sounds like the written instructions are not helping MIL, and neither are hearing the instructions on the phone.  Have you considered using the "print screen" function on you computer so that you can send MIL visual instructions?  That may work better for her.  (Of course, you are not obligated to do this.  Just a suggestion if you want to help her.)
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Hmmmmm on March 08, 2013, 06:15:36 AM
Pen, I would go nuts with this. I think you have two options.

The first is the easiest. Make her pay for a subsription to something like "Go to my PC" and when she has a problem, she grants you rights  to log in and take over her computer and just fix it.

The second suggestion is when she says the first "Mmmm" in response to a question do what I do with my teenagers "I don't know what Mmmm means. Call me back when you ready to talk."  Do not offer to call her back later because you have then accepted responsibility for getting her computer fixed.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: spookycatlady on March 08, 2013, 07:04:42 AM
After reading that, I took some aspirin.  I am going to agree with previous posters with a variation of "You don't seem up to this right now. Bye!" 

I got so tired of being tech support for my parents, I switched operating systems.  Dad gets personally offended by weather, so imagine how he feels about a computer not working.   Mom doesn't listen, starts clicking everywhere, then wonders why her screen is full of open programs and it's running slow.  It was so stressful and for a while, it felt like it was the only kind of phone call I would get.

I bought a Mac and then just started playing dumb.  "Sorry, can't help you.  I don't know about Windows... I only use a PC at work and we have IT guys to sort us out."

The last time I said that to my Dad he responded, "That's not much of an answer."

I said, "Well, that's the answer you're getting."

Then my folks started migrating to Apple products... I would like to inform you all that I am personally responsible for any issue you may be having with iTunes because according to my Dad, if I wasn't so into Mac, someone would be able to come along and develop a better music player.  All.  My.  Fault.   :P

Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: SeptGurl on March 08, 2013, 07:16:24 AM
Oh, I feel your pain! My rules is that I will provide technical support for anyone over 65 so long as they install TeamViewer (http://www.teamviewer.com). That program has saved me hours of my life. No,days.

 
Think eccentric mathematician: brilliant at her job, but is a recluse who can't socialise her way out of a wet paper bag. This also unfortunately means she is immune to bean dipping, since she ignores anything that is said that she doesn't see as relevant to the subject at hand. This also means she doesn't hang up on a phone call until she has got what she wants.

I take a strong but shruggy line with people who don't want to learn. I say it's okay, you're smart enough to learn to do something if you want to, and if you don't you'll cope. There are other ways to communicate/get information. It's amazing how interested they get when they realise they have to show some enthusiasm for it to get at all the stuff they are missing out on. In this particular case I think since the normal interaction patterns don't work you need to try something else. Say: "The answer is in the instruction book I wrote you. Page 5. Go and follow it." After all, the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results :-)
'

The bolded above was my thought as well. I also like the idea of having her pay for GoToMyPC or TeamViewer.

OP, I understand how frustrating this is for you. I've been in the same position with my parents. My dad used to panic when the computer would do things he didn't understand. And he'd been using a computer for years before he retired, so he wasn't a total newbie. He just didn't have his office's tech support to rely on anymore. My mother is much the same. She also used a computer for years before she retired, so also not a newbie.

My parents began calling me to "help" them fix the problems. I quickly realized that it was not possible to walk them through the steps to fix it by phone. They would get lost in what I was asking them to do. It was frustrating. My mother would ask me to just go there and fix it for her. I live an hour away, and I can't just drop everything to go there and fix it. I would tell her when I could be there, and it often wasn't good enough because she needed to do something right away. My only solution there was for her to call the computer's tech support or in some instances her ISP's tech support. Once my mother started having success in calling tech support, her dependence on me dropped off.

I also will add that my DH also is computer illiterate, although the entirety of his job revolves around using a computer. I sometimes have to troubleshoot problems with him. Currently, we have a new version of MS Office that needs to be installed on his laptop. This involves putting in the CD and following the installation instructions. He has asked me several times when "we" can install it. The CD is right there, but he has yet to try it on his own. When "we" install it, in actuality, he will install it. I will be there to observe, but I think it's important for him to see that he can install it himself.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Queen of Clubs on March 08, 2013, 07:17:01 AM
I think remotely accessing her pc is a brilliant idea!  If you can get her to let you do that, OP, I think that would be the best option.

If not, I'd buy her the Dummies Guide for her operating system and tell her to look it up in the book every single time.  She sounds incredibly frustrating to deal with.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: MrTango on March 08, 2013, 07:41:56 AM
I know a couple of people who are like the OP's MIL when it comes to computers.  I decided that I am not their tech support person, or anyone else's.  Unless it's a computer that I own, I will not attempt to diagnose or fix a problem, and I will not teach someone how to operate their computer.

I also figure that if a person has to pay to have their computer fixed, they're more likely to actually put in the effort to learn how to use it without causing further problems.

Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: hjaye on March 08, 2013, 07:58:05 AM
Is there anyway you can set up her computer to allow you remote access so you can remote into her machine and show her what to do?

Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: bopper on March 08, 2013, 08:06:23 AM
Technological solution:  Next time you are near her computer, set it so that a Browser automatically launchs.  Have her favorite sites saved to the favorites bar so she can just click on them.  Or have access to one of those live meeting/netweb/computer sharing programs so you can show her what to do?

Socialogical solution: 
Her: mmmmmm.
You;  <wait for a couple of minutes>  Hey MIL, call be back when you get that part done.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: VorFemme on March 08, 2013, 08:31:49 AM
I just found a copy of the omnibus version of XP for Dummies (nine books in one binding).  At $7 USA, it was about the cost of driving over to the friend's house to help her work out how to use the "new" computer she'd bought two years ago.

She's happy.

Microsoft just extended the support of XP until early 2014 - so she's even happier. 

And I don't get asked questions about an operating system that I haven't used in at least two years.....so I'm happy. 
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: betty on March 08, 2013, 09:01:58 AM
I see some other people have mentioned getting remote access to the computer so you can "take over" and do what needs to be done without being there. If you are going to continue to be the computer support person, it would be worth hiring a computer person to go over once to install the remote access program.

I installed LogMeIn on my parents computer.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Virg on March 08, 2013, 09:07:12 AM
bonyk wrote:

"I have some sympathy for MIL; there are certain topics that make my brain shut off - anything science or financial turns me into a moron.  I don't think again has anything to do with it."

In response to this, I present the following from Pen^2: "Even "go into the computer room" is hard to accomplish."  That's not "brain shutting off", that's someone who's avoiding the task due to something going on in her head because there's no rational argument that someone a thousand miles away can fix the computer if she's not in the same room with it.

Based on this, Pen^2, your MIL isn't computer illiterate, she's actively avoiding learning about the computer.  Why is something I suspect you'll be better at knowing than any of us, but she's not like this because she just can't get the hang of using a computer, there's something a lot deeper going on.  The only way you're going to "fix" this issue is disengage because your further descriptions of her personality don't lend themselves to fixing what's wrong with her interactions with a computer.

So, I'll simply say that there's nothing rude about telling her, "I've given you written instructions that you don't read, and when I tell you what steps to take you don't do them.  If you're unwilling to listen to my advice then there's no point in asking for it."  I understand that this may negatively affect your already tenuous relationship, but so will carrying around a bunch of resentment, which is evident by the fact that you're asking us for advice on how to change it.  If you want to continue supporting her computer use, I'd suggest that you set up some remote control software, configure it to be as simple as you can make it to launch, and then refuse to help her until and unless she runs that software so you can log in and look it over yourself.

Virg
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: scansons on March 08, 2013, 09:27:14 AM
I've dealt with this sort of personality before.  Here's what you do.  She calls with a computer problem.  Don't try and get her to sit down at the computer, instead say "Okay write this down".  Then give her steps 1-X to write down with as little emotion or chat as possible.  Then say, "Great.  Try that.  If it dosen't work, give me a call back."  And hang up.  Hopefully writing down the direction herself will help her learn what she's doing.  Plus, she can deal with it in her own time instead of dragging you through the drama. 

Although getting remote access is a great idea too. 
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: LadyDyani on March 08, 2013, 09:33:42 AM
I just found a copy of the omnibus version of XP for Dummies (nine books in one binding).  At $7 USA, it was about the cost of driving over to the friend's house to help her work out how to use the "new" computer she'd bought two years ago.

She's happy.

Microsoft just extended the support of XP until early 2014 - so she's even happier. 

And I don't get asked questions about an operating system that I haven't used in at least two years.....so I'm happy.

"I no longer remember the correct sequence of sticks and rocks to bang together to fix any dial-up issues you may have."
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: PastryGoddess on March 08, 2013, 10:13:23 AM
You can also install Join.me for free. 

She will have to input the 9 digit code to grant you access to her computer, but once that's done you can do what ever you need to do on the computer.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: TootsNYC on March 08, 2013, 10:24:59 AM

The second suggestion is when she says the first "Mmmm" in response to a question do what I do with my teenagers "I don't know what Mmmm means. Call me back when you ready to talk."  Do not offer to call her back later because you have then accepted responsibility for getting her computer fixed.

This.

if you really think you're not getting anywhere, get off the phone. And given the history, don't wait for 15 minutes' worth of "Mmmm."

Your other option is to ask open-ended questions:
"where is the cursor?"
"What letters are in the bar at the top?"
"double click the letters--what happened?"

Don't tell--ask.

Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Luci on March 08, 2013, 10:39:56 AM
I thought I was pretty good on the computer, but trying to troubleshoot without being hands-on would be impossible for me, other than "reboot", of course.

You guys are amazing!
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Aquamarine on March 08, 2013, 10:42:05 AM
Stop helping.  Suggest she find a local teenager to help her, perhaps she will find more incentive to learn if it costs her money.  Tell your husband you are done and after you speak with her for the last time to tell her you will no longer be available and to hire someone tell him it's his turn to deal with the entire situation.  Then if she asks for help in the future suggest she call someone locally who can come over.

There is absolutely no excuse for the MIL's choice of determined, obstinate stupidity.  None.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Twik on March 08, 2013, 10:42:26 AM
bonyk wrote:

"I have some sympathy for MIL; there are certain topics that make my brain shut off - anything science or financial turns me into a moron.  I don't think again has anything to do with it."

In response to this, I present the following from Pen^2: "Even "go into the computer room" is hard to accomplish."  That's not "brain shutting off", that's someone who's avoiding the task due to something going on in her head because there's no rational argument that someone a thousand miles away can fix the computer if she's not in the same room with it.

Based on this, Pen^2, your MIL isn't computer illiterate, she's actively avoiding learning about the computer.  Why is something I suspect you'll be better at knowing than any of us, but she's not like this because she just can't get the hang of using a computer, there's something a lot deeper going on.  The only way you're going to "fix" this issue is disengage because your further descriptions of her personality don't lend themselves to fixing what's wrong with her interactions with a computer.

So, I'll simply say that there's nothing rude about telling her, "I've given you written instructions that you don't read, and when I tell you what steps to take you don't do them.  If you're unwilling to listen to my advice then there's no point in asking for it."  I understand that this may negatively affect your already tenuous relationship, but so will carrying around a bunch of resentment, which is evident by the fact that you're asking us for advice on how to change it.  If you want to continue supporting her computer use, I'd suggest that you set up some remote control software, configure it to be as simple as you can make it to launch, and then refuse to help her until and unless she runs that software so you can log in and look it over yourself.

Virg

I suspect she's told herself that she is not able to deal with computers. So, she wants it fixed, but does not believe that she can do anything to assist that process. One might have the same conversation, say, by trying to talk someone through changing a washer on a faucet if they really believed they were incapable of DIY plumbing.

Think about why the "... for Dummies" books became so popular. There are so many people who have a mental block about being able to cope with computers.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Venus193 on March 08, 2013, 10:43:52 AM
BTDT with someone my own age and I feel your pain.

I agree with Virg.  Everything you've said about your MIL says she doesn't want to learn how to deal with the computer.  Per WillyNilly, she probably doesn't want to use it in the first place.  You need to disengage.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Lynn2000 on March 08, 2013, 10:54:09 AM
My sympathies! My mom at least really tries to learn about her computer and has taught herself to do some stuff that even *I* don't know, because she was motivated to learn it. But then something really basic like copy and paste will give her trouble. And it's really difficult to help over the phone because we don't use the same terminology--I'm like, "Okay, open the browser," and then I have I add, "Flamingvixen? Orange and blue glob? How you get on the Internet? The thing that shows you websites?" And I am nowhere near techno-savvy, I just know more than she does. I thought about doing the remote-access thing, but then I realized that would make her rely on me for every little tiny thing, and I'm not willing to go there yet.

Suggestions from this thread I like best:
--Remote-access software--fix the problem for her! (Predicted new obstacle: she won't turn the computer on or do the one thing that lets you take over.)

--Ask open-ended questions and don't assume "mmmm" means she's doing what you said. I would get a magazine or something and sit in a comfy chair and be like, "Okay, are you sitting in front of the computer? Tell me when you are," and just sit there reading in silence with the phone on speaker or something until she acknowledges you. "Okay, open the browser. What do you see?" Read another article in silence until she indicates she's done it. For me, this would actually help to keep me calm, because I'd be focusing on what I was reading, and not fuming about my wasted time. I would combine this with...

--Put a time limit on the call. 15 minutes, 30 minutes, whatever you decide to spare. To be fair, I would tell her this upfront. "Okay, MIL, I can help you with this, but I only have 20 minutes. Are you sitting in front of the computer?" And after 20 minutes, "Well, it's been 20 minutes and I have to go. Bye!" If you feel like she's actually trying you can extend the time, but if you only get through 2 or 3 steps because she's so reluctant to do anything, well--too bad for her.

--I always put screenshots in my computer protocols--I'm a visual learner and they make things much easier for me. Have all of her instructions in a binder and have a copy for yourself, so that if it's a problem she's had before, you can tell her exactly where to go in the binder. "Go to page 7 in the binder. Do you have the binder?" For new problems, make new instructions after you get off the phone with her, and send them to her in the mail. "Ah, yes, you had that problem last month, and I sent you instructions for it. Did you put them in the binder? Can you find them? No? I don't think I can help you, then. You really need the visual instructions to help with this. Call me back if you find them."

--A big "Computers for Dummies" book set. Or, I see DVDs advertised on TV that will show you with video how to do stuff on your computer.

All of these things are varying degrees of work, time, and expense, though. I don't think it would be rude to say, "That computer problem sounds really frustrating, MIL. I'm sorry, but I don't think I can help you with it. No, really, I can't. In fact, I need to go now." One other thing you could do is look around her town for a reliable computer repair/assistance place, and then always suggest she call them. "Well, I think that problem is beyond me, MIL. Maybe you should call Bob's Computer Palace, they seem to know what they're talking about." From your description it seems like she's a lot of work to maintain a relationship with, and one might question whether it's worth all the effort.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: LadyL on March 08, 2013, 11:08:15 AM
It still surprises me that people think computers are fixable the same way household appliances are (i.e. "just tighten the screw here and that'll fix her'). In reality there are so many potential issues that it can be more like fixing a car, except even more abstract. Also because it's abstract people struggle with the logic - like losing your bookmarks and not thinking to type in the URL - if your automatic car door opener battery died, most people could figure out to use the the physical key because the mechanics of how the door opens are concretely understandable.

Also only a pretty car savvy person would expect to be walked through a part replacement over the phone. I have never felt over the phone computer troubleshooting was that helpful - if it's simple enough that verbal instruction is what's needed to fix it (i.e. "turn the router off then on again" or "type the URL in the bar"), I'll just google for written instruction instead. Someone who can't or won't follow the most basic verbal instruction isn't really being a responsible owner of their computer. It's like refusing to put gas in a car or get an oil change. Someone willing to take that little responsibility should probably be willing to pay someone else to do so, at a minimum, and not rely on favors.

Part of the problem is that there is no equivalent to driver's ed required to own a computer and despite the fact that it's one of the most expensive and important things most people own, people don't have the most basic understanding of how it works. I think this will change in our culture over time - the college students I teach are generally very tech savvy between having grown up with computers and now smart phones. But for people who are older as well, I consider it an increasingly important life (and definitely job) skill.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: suzieQ on March 08, 2013, 11:21:05 AM
1) After you give her a step and she says Mmmm, ask, "Did you (do whatever?)" If she says Mmmm stop and count to ten. If she hasn't said anything in the count ask the question again. Repeat until she responds in the positive, or hangs up in frustration. Don't continue with any steps until she stops playing her game. Cut her off after 30 minutes, and each call thereafter a minute sooner.

2) Change the subject, and beandip her computer questions in favour of a good chat.

3) Hand the phone to her son.

Parking my POD here. But I'd count very slowly to 30 instead of just 10. Most people can't handle silence and feel the need to fill it. Hopefully she will fill it with a Yes and will actually have done it!

Oops, saw you already tried this. Maybe you could just snail mail her another copy of the instructions - if she calls before she gets them, tell her help is on the way.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: BeagleMommy on March 08, 2013, 11:35:40 AM
A cousin of mine once gave one of DH's business cards to a friend who lived in California.  We are in NE Pennsylvania.  We got about three or four calls from this person and each time DH said "I'm too far away to help you.  You should look for someone locally or call Computer Repair Service.  They charge $50.00 to come out to look at it and about $30 to help you over the phone.  This is what I charge."

If you don't want to have her do remote access I would suggest something like this.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: wyliefool on March 08, 2013, 12:06:19 PM
bonyk wrote:

"I have some sympathy for MIL; there are certain topics that make my brain shut off - anything science or financial turns me into a moron.  I don't think again has anything to do with it."

In response to this, I present the following from Pen^2: "Even "go into the computer room" is hard to accomplish."  That's not "brain shutting off", that's someone who's avoiding the task due to something going on in her head because there's no rational argument that someone a thousand miles away can fix the computer if she's not in the same room with it.

Based on this, Pen^2, your MIL isn't computer illiterate, she's actively avoiding learning about the computer.  Why is something I suspect you'll be better at knowing than any of us, but she's not like this because she just can't get the hang of using a computer, there's something a lot deeper going on.  The only way you're going to "fix" this issue is disengage because your further descriptions of her personality don't lend themselves to fixing what's wrong with her interactions with a computer.

So, I'll simply say that there's nothing rude about telling her, "I've given you written instructions that you don't read, and when I tell you what steps to take you don't do them.  If you're unwilling to listen to my advice then there's no point in asking for it."  I understand that this may negatively affect your already tenuous relationship, but so will carrying around a bunch of resentment, which is evident by the fact that you're asking us for advice on how to change it.  If you want to continue supporting her computer use, I'd suggest that you set up some remote control software, configure it to be as simple as you can make it to launch, and then refuse to help her until and unless she runs that software so you can log in and look it over yourself.

Virg

This. Honestly, I would have stopped answering her calls by now. She sounds utterly obnoxious, and I'm at a loss as to what maintaining the relationship adds to your/DH's life.

That said, by about the third 'Mmmm' I would have probably snapped and said 'CRUD MONKEYS!, dude, you're a doctor! You learned how kidneys work, you can jolly well learn this! It's not hard!' One time I got annoyed w/ my mom and said something along those lines, only substitute PhD for doctor. 'You're smart enuf to figure it out without me, I only have a bachelor's after all.' It did startle her out of her helpless act. Luckily, she uses a Mac and I use PCs, so she can't ask me for help desk assistance.  8)
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Sophie Jenkins on March 08, 2013, 12:33:38 PM
How does she manage to function as a doctor with this level of contempt for computers?

I sympathize, and wish I knew a solution for you...
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: weeblewobble on March 08, 2013, 12:44:01 PM
Would she be willing to take an intro to computers class at a local community college or rec center?
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: eee on March 08, 2013, 12:51:06 PM

This. Honestly, I would have stopped answering her calls by now. She sounds utterly obnoxious, and I'm at a loss as to what maintaining the relationship adds to your/DH's life.


well, unless she's an absolute monster in all areas of life, she's the man's mother and probably has some redeeming qualities when not struggling with hotmail.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: lowspark on March 08, 2013, 12:53:22 PM
I'm with all the PPs who say to quit helping her. Really, compters are not rocket science (or medical science for that matter!).

Facts you've told us:
1. she apparently doesn't even want to try to do what it takes to fix things
2. she's only using the computer for emailing friends and googling recipes
3. you're spending an hour at a clip trying to help

Regardless of anything else, these three items are way way more than enough reasons to just say no.
Next time she calls, tell her that her particular issues are beyond your area of knowledge and that her best bet will be to pay someone to have a look. I don't see why it should be your responsibility to help her if she won't even meet you 1/8 of the way much less half!
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: at5115 on March 08, 2013, 12:54:31 PM
How does she manage to function as a doctor with this level of contempt for computers?

As I work with many physicians, I can tell you that unless they love technology, they're not in a computer headspace.  As one pediatric pulmonologist told me recently, "Put me in a room with a child and I'm brilliant.  But I cannot wrap my head around this computer."  So your MIL's response to you is totally typical of the experiences I've had (but only of my sample - I can't speak for everyone).

It's a handicap, but I don't think it's a reflection of her clinical prowess.

Brilliant idea for the LogMeIn and other computer sharing software! My Mom pretty much only calls me to fix/help her with things on her computer/Facebook - and she definitely doesn't have the terminology down at all.  I like helping her because she sends me cookies (I'm in another state). 
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Sophie Jenkins on March 08, 2013, 01:09:11 PM
How does she manage to function as a doctor with this level of contempt for computers?
As I work with many physicians, I can tell you that unless they love technology, they're not in a computer headspace.  As one pediatric pulmonologist told me recently, "Put me in a room with a child and I'm brilliant.  But I cannot wrap my head around this computer."  So your MIL's response to you is totally typical of the experiences I've had (but only of my sample - I can't speak for everyone).

It's a handicap, but I don't think it's a reflection of her clinical prowess.

I know a lot of doctors (a lot! My husband is one and we socialize with his coworkers) and that has not been my experience at all. Almost none of them are computer people, but they all have laptops, smartphones, and the capability to use them for work and personal reasons.

It's a very severe handicap, in my experience. Computerized charts are widespread now. If a doctor can't find the address bar in a browser, how can they access their patient's records? Or look at the results sent from pathology? Or look at the CTs of the lungs?
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Shea on March 08, 2013, 01:32:24 PM
Working in a library, I've found it's incredibly hard to help people with computers, even in person, if they lack even a basic knowledge (how to use a mouse, how to open email, etc.) There's an elderly professor emeritus who comes into my library often (I work at a university) and he just can't grasp basic computer use. Every time he comes in he needs help using a mouse and signing on to the workstation, so he definitely can't find the articles he wants. I always end up walking him through it. He really does try, he takes careful notes on what I do and tries to do it himself. Sometimes he can, but then he gets stuck on small things and needs help. This professor is obviously a very smart man, he's considered a major expert in his field, but dang if he doesn't need my help every time to open the Internet.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Aeris on March 08, 2013, 01:39:42 PM
This. Honestly, I would have stopped answering her calls by now. She sounds utterly obnoxious, and I'm at a loss as to what maintaining the relationship adds to your/DH's life.

Wait...what? Are you implying the OP and her DH should give his mother the cut direct because she's a bit annoying/obtuse about computers?

 :o
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Cami on March 08, 2013, 01:49:32 PM
This. Honestly, I would have stopped answering her calls by now. She sounds utterly obnoxious, and I'm at a loss as to what maintaining the relationship adds to your/DH's life.

Wait...what? Are you implying the OP and her DH should give his mother the cut direct because she's a bit annoying/obtuse about computers?

 :o
Okay, I was a bit flummoxed by what I was reading too -- couldn't believe anyone would suggest cutting their mother out of their life due to one annoying habit. We all annoy our loved ones from time to time. None of us is innoculated against irritating others. If we cut everyone who annoyed us out of our lives, well, we wouldn't have much of a life any more.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: acicularis on March 08, 2013, 02:17:49 PM
Think about why the "... for Dummies" books became so popular. There are so many people who have a mental block about being able to cope with computers.

True, but there's a big difference between reading a "for Dummies" book to try to figure out something and passively sitting there saying "Mmm" and not even trying because you've decided you can't.

Not everyone is computer literate --or good with cars, or plumbing, or fixing things, etc. Nothing wrong with that. But if you can't or choose not to figure some stuff out, you can't assume that someone is going to spend an hour on the phone with you "helping" you while you refuse to do a darned thing!
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Lynn2000 on March 08, 2013, 02:21:38 PM
This. Honestly, I would have stopped answering her calls by now. She sounds utterly obnoxious, and I'm at a loss as to what maintaining the relationship adds to your/DH's life.

Wait...what? Are you implying the OP and her DH should give his mother the cut direct because she's a bit annoying/obtuse about computers?

 :o

Not wyliefool, but this same thought passed through my mind as well after I read the OP's post with more description of the mother's personality--the impression I got was of someone cold and uninterested in the people around her, even her own son, who never calls except to get "help" with her computer, and who has left her son with a lot of issues to work through due to her behavior when he was a child. Obviously I don't know the woman and that is just my interpretation of the OP's description. Plus, add in that she seems so unwilling to take the OP's computer advice, despite calling and demanding it. Only the OP can decide if the relationship is worth the hassle, of course.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: camlan on March 08, 2013, 02:38:04 PM
How does she manage to function as a doctor with this level of contempt for computers?

I sympathize, and wish I knew a solution for you...

My SIL is a doctor. She's in her late 40s, just old enough to have gone through college and med school without having to learn how to use a computer. They were around, but easy enough to avoid at that point.

At work, up until two years ago, she simply dictated her notes on each patient and someone else transcribed them.

Two years ago, her office finally forced her into typing her own patient record notes and doing everything else on the computer. Even gave her a laptop all her own.

She is genuinely afraid of computers and afraid that she'll hit the wrong button and erase everything in the machine. She survives because her husband, my brother, is very technologically inclined (he's the IT guy at the school where he works) and so are her kids. You hear them yelling from another room, "No, Mom, hit F5. F5, Mom!" "Mom, it's the icon on the desktop. You need to hit the bar on the lower right-hand corner of the bar at the bottom of the screen. Then you'll see the icon." And heaven help them all every time the office upgrades either the software or her laptop.

She's bright and intelligent and simply has this huge blind spot when it comes to computers.

When I worked in a library, I saw this all the time. In people well under 30. Some people simply don't "click" with computers and they struggle to learn how to use them well. They learn one way to do something and they stick with it. There could be much easier shortcuts, but they won't learn them because they want to stay with the one thing they know that works.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Sophie Jenkins on March 08, 2013, 02:59:04 PM
How does she manage to function as a doctor with this level of contempt for computers?

I sympathize, and wish I knew a solution for you...

My SIL is a doctor. She's in her late 40s, just old enough to have gone through college and med school without having to learn how to use a computer. They were around, but easy enough to avoid at that point.

At work, up until two years ago, she simply dictated her notes on each patient and someone else transcribed them.

Two years ago, her office finally forced her into typing her own patient record notes and doing everything else on the computer. Even gave her a laptop all her own.

She is genuinely afraid of computers and afraid that she'll hit the wrong button and erase everything in the machine. She survives because her husband, my brother, is very technologically inclined (he's the IT guy at the school where he works) and so are her kids. You hear them yelling from another room, "No, Mom, hit F5. F5, Mom!" "Mom, it's the icon on the desktop. You need to hit the bar on the lower right-hand corner of the bar at the bottom of the screen. Then you'll see the icon." And heaven help them all every time the office upgrades either the software or her laptop.

She's bright and intelligent and simply has this huge blind spot when it comes to computers.

When I worked in a library, I saw this all the time. In people well under 30. Some people simply don't "click" with computers and they struggle to learn how to use them well. They learn one way to do something and they stick with it. There could be much easier shortcuts, but they won't learn them because they want to stay with the one thing they know that works.

I don't doubt that there are very intelligent people who struggle with computers.

What concerns me is the level at which the OP's MIL is struggling and how very integral computers are to medical work.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: TootsNYC on March 08, 2013, 03:02:53 PM
This. Honestly, I would have stopped answering her calls by now. She sounds utterly obnoxious, and I'm at a loss as to what maintaining the relationship adds to your/DH's life.

Wait...what? Are you implying the OP and her DH should give his mother the cut direct because she's a bit annoying/obtuse about computers?

 :o

Not wyliefool, but this same thought passed through my mind as well after I read the OP's post with more description of the mother's personality--the impression I got was of someone cold and uninterested in the people around her, even her own son, who never calls except to get "help" with her computer, and who has left her son with a lot of issues to work through due to her behavior when he was a child. Obviously I don't know the woman and that is just my interpretation of the OP's description. Plus, add in that she seems so unwilling to take the OP's computer advice, despite calling and demanding it. Only the OP can decide if the relationship is worth the hassle, of course.

Maybe a better question is not "why is the relationship worth the trouble?" but "why is *trying so hard* worth the trouble?"

Maybe the OP just needs to stop waiting and waiting and trying and trying to help. It's OK to bow out of this one area.

Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Cat-Fu on March 08, 2013, 03:03:24 PM
TBH I find that worrisome too, but my healthcare provider network is entirely computer-based. I think if I encountered a doctor struggling with one of the computers, I wouldn't go back to that doctor.

OP, have you suggested taking a computer class to your MIL? I realize she hates being social, but they can be really helpful.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Lynn2000 on March 08, 2013, 03:05:53 PM
Maybe a better question is not "why is the relationship worth the trouble?" but "why is *trying so hard* worth the trouble?"

Maybe the OP just needs to stop waiting and waiting and trying and trying to help. It's OK to bow out of this one area.

My thoughts exactly. There are lots of good, hopefully useful suggestions for new approaches the OP can take; but, it's also perfectly polite to just not engage on this topic any longer, if that's preferred.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: nuit93 on March 08, 2013, 03:18:27 PM
Stop helping.  Suggest she find a local teenager to help her, perhaps she will find more incentive to learn if it costs her money.  Tell your husband you are done and after you speak with her for the last time to tell her you will no longer be available and to hire someone tell him it's his turn to deal with the entire situation.  Then if she asks for help in the future suggest she call someone locally who can come over.

There is absolutely no excuse for the MIL's choice of determined, obstinate stupidity.  None.

I agree with this.  Why should you work for free?
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: zyrs on March 08, 2013, 03:52:17 PM
She is genuinely afraid of computers and afraid that she'll hit the wrong button and erase everything in the machine.

In the first book for dummies; "Auto-repair for Dummies" (first edition in the 1970s)  I remember reading  - this book is for you if you think something you do to the car will blow it up.

We've all heard the stories of lost data and people who have typed 'format C:' (notice I did not type it out fully even on a forum).  And they are scary.   So for people wanting to learn the computer, the for dummies books are great.

OP, it does sound like a different thing is driving your MIL.  Other posters have mentioned asking questions that need more than a yes/no answer and taking the time to read until she responds to you - I think those are both good strategies.

Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Clumsy Ninja on March 08, 2013, 08:03:01 PM
My parents are both 83 and very very bright people. I've held both their hands for nearly a decade trying to get them to independently use email, my dad does well enough that he can get to his Wall Street Journal but my mom.. wow. She can't turn the thing on despite my copious use of written step-by-step notes.

She has convinced herself that she is stupid about computers, she is terribly intimidated by them and I don't think seeing her grandkids 'automatically' figure it all out has helped either.

I've tried Computers for Dummies, basic classes and even had someone close by (I live 2000 miles away) to be on call for her.

This is a woman who got her Masters in the 40s! But she just cannot grasp the patterns and honestly I've given up. I was spending most of the call telling her she is not stupid and it exhausted both of us.

I wish I could be of more help! It didn't help that I'm barely adequate with computers lol.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: AngelBarchild on March 08, 2013, 10:08:55 PM
This kind of thing drives me crazy. I build computers (it's my hobby) and end up quite a bit of tech support for my friends. After many years of frustration, I simply refuse to help anyone who pretends helplessness. Unless someone has a legitimate learning disorder, the the "I just can't learn it" is a load of poo. They may never have my skill, (perfectly fine)  but there is no way a fully functioning adult cannot learn the basics of e-mail and web surfing. My own 74 year old grandmother uses her computer every day, with little to no issue.  I simply do not help people who refuse to learn.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Pen^2 on March 09, 2013, 12:14:47 AM
Thanks for all the replies, everyone.

I think I'll get her cousin or someone to install a remote access program that can run in the background. At the moment, my internet is dial-up and choppy at best (it literally cuts out every three seconds, meaning downloads are impossible and emails need to be sent multiple times to actually work), but in a few months I'll have moved to an area with better internet access, so from then I can use remote access. I never thought of that at all; great idea!

Her written instructions have screenshots (I think I mentioned pictures, but maybe I forgot here) and all, but the problems of a computer illiterate person are many and it is never possible to predict them all. Things like having the mouse upside down, having the monitor turned off but computer turned on, clicking with the wrong mouse button, pressing backspace instead of enter... No amount of written stuff can cover all these bizarre little problems. For now, though, I think I'll just say the whole "call me back when you've done that" or "you seem too tired to do this now; call me back tomorrow" or something similar until my internet is good enough to allow remote access.

Thanks for the support, everyone! It's good to know I'm not the only person with such a frustrating family member!
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Bethalize on March 09, 2013, 04:39:38 AM
Sometimes I wish I could be like the story I read on Shark Tank many years ago. Ma'am, do you see the large cardboard box your computer came in? Well, put the machine in that box and take it back to the store. You are too stupid to own a computer.

Obviously, I wouldn't say that but when people are wilfully stupid it's more frustrating than if they actually didn't have the mental capacity to learn a task.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Calistoga on March 09, 2013, 11:13:10 AM
Do we have the same MIL, OP? Because this sounds a lot like my MIL. She calls us all the time- even when we're on vacation- and wants us to remotely fix her computer.

If she actually wants help, tell her you can't help her.

If she just wants to talk, talk to her a little bit.

But ultimately, you need to stop helping her with the computer unless you are physically in the room with her.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Softly Spoken on March 11, 2013, 12:04:52 AM
Sounds like OP has a plan, but I had to chime in with some sympathy for dealing with the technophobic.

I learned computers when they first came into grade school - no mouse, floppy disks were really floppy, DOS (the only windows where the glass ones in the wall), and the only thing I remember doing besides practicing keyboard skills ("a-s-d-f [spacebar] j-k-l-; [spacebar]" ::)), was playing Oregon Trail (shooting square bullets at white 2-D squirrels and buffalo was fun...as was naming members of my party after people I didn't like, then choosing to do things like soldier on instead of rest when they got snakebit or dysentery. >:D)

I've gone from having a PC with Windows 98 to the Windows 7 laptop I'm typing this on now.

I built my own tower PC over 7 years ago. A lot of research. A lot of work. I don't have the patience anymore. I would classify myself as Intermediate when it comes to computer skills. I haven't been keeping up with hardware or programs.

My father...still uses a typewriter. At least it's an electric one, but still...*SIGH*
I remember I tried to teach him how to use Word...I told him he just had to type - he didn't understand word "wrap," so he kept hitting "Enter" when he got to the end of the screen and it was all capital letters down the left side. He said it was "too complicated." Oy...

No one knows everything. My brother is an engineer who self-taught himself computers and then a few years ago went back to school and took a course in computer forensics. He is a genius with computers compared to most...and yet I had to teach him how to use Ctrl + Shift to select multiple files! He had been doing it one file at a time (Ctrl + L Click) before then! :o

My brother once pointed out that computer programs often have a steep learning curve because they are made by programmers who forget they are not talking to other programmers. Most programs are not very intuitive, and if you have not grown up with computers you are at a distinct disadvantage. You are basically trying to learn a foreign language combined with a physical routine you have never before performed. I agree with PPs that few are unteachable unless they do not want to learn, but it is important to consider to magnitude of what you are asking them to comprehend.

Lastly, I would like to add my dismay that there are people in healthcare that cannot or will not adapt to technology. My healthcare provider has created a very strong online community. I can log into my account to make and see upcoming appointments, order medication, see test results, or ask my doctor questions that don't require an appointment. A healthcare professional who was not computer literate would find it very difficult to function in my provider's network!

Learning a completely new thing is very stressful and intimidating...but gaining even the most basic competency not only does wonders for one's self-esteem, but opens new doors and allows you to explore what you are passionate about in new ways.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: LadyClaire on March 11, 2013, 08:31:03 AM
My In-Laws are computer illiterate. My MIL in particular. Worse, she is the "I'm going to download everything/click every link/provide my details to this e-mail I got because surely it's not spam/a virus/phishing attempt" and then she doesn't understand why the computer stopped working. My husband tries to explain to her, repeatedly, that she can't just go downloading every single thing that arrives in her e-mail, but she never listens and her computer ends up re-infected with viruses and pop-ups within days of him cleaning it up.

Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: wyliefool on March 11, 2013, 09:24:12 AM
This. Honestly, I would have stopped answering her calls by now. She sounds utterly obnoxious, and I'm at a loss as to what maintaining the relationship adds to your/DH's life.

Wait...what? Are you implying the OP and her DH should give his mother the cut direct because she's a bit annoying/obtuse about computers?

 :o
Okay, I was a bit flummoxed by what I was reading too -- couldn't believe anyone would suggest cutting their mother out of their life due to one annoying habit. We all annoy our loved ones from time to time. None of us is innoculated against irritating others. If we cut everyone who annoyed us out of our lives, well, we wouldn't have much of a life any more.

According to the OP, she doesn't like visits, doesn't like phone calls, and Mmms instead of cooperating when OP is trying to help w/ the computer. So yeah, I just don't get the point of these interactions.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: cheyne on March 11, 2013, 11:43:45 AM
This doesn't sound like computer illiterate to me, more like complete willfull ignorance.  Seriously, holding the mouse upside down?   Even if OP gets email up and gets MIL on google, if MIL is holding the mouse upside down or doesn't turn on the monitor how is OP helping?  MIL still won't be able to actually use her computer if she doesn't get at least the basics down.  I equate it to using the eraser end on a pencil then complaining that it doesn't write!  There are just some things one has to learn to do to be able to manipulate the tool to at least get started.

You are a saint, OP.  If my parents or FIL had these types of issues with a computer I would just tell them that I am unable to help.

Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Twik on March 11, 2013, 11:57:36 AM
Get her an iPad. My own mother just could not grasp Windows ("It does something different every time I turn it on!" "... Um, yeah, you're right about that,") but took to the iPad in a couple of minutes.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Virg on March 11, 2013, 01:00:42 PM
Softly Spoken wrote:

"Sounds like OP has a plan, but I had to chime in with some sympathy for dealing with the technophobic."

I agree wholly with all of your comments about dealing with people who have trouble learning computers, but I don't think any of that applies here.  I'll double back on my earlier comment, pointing out Pen^2's comment of "Even "go into the computer room" is hard to accomplish."  I doubt that she could possibly be so technically naive that she can't grasp the instruction to enter the room with the computer.  I'd expect that level of difficulty from someone with brain damage, not a medical degree.  That's why I think that solving the problem goes way beyond figuring out ways to make the computer easier for her MIL.

Virg
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: VorFemme on March 11, 2013, 01:16:45 PM
Get her an iPad. My own mother just could not grasp Windows ("It does something different every time I turn it on!" "... Um, yeah, you're right about that,") but took to the iPad in a couple of minutes.

They find that autistic children react much better to iPads than flash cards (gee, I always found flash cards boring, too - can I have an iPad?  If I pay for it....let me check my bank balance....nope, the Android tablet that I have works just fine for most things....except for a couple of apps that would let me watch tv on an iPad.....$250 plus for a USED iPad first generation is too much).  Oh well.....

I wonder if there is a micro SD card that I could use to make my Android tablet to think that it is an iPad?  I already have a couple that make my Nook HD+ and and Nook Color think that they are Android tablets......micro SD cards are much cheaper than iPads.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Twik on March 11, 2013, 01:19:24 PM
Perhaps I should have rephrased that. "Suggest she get herself an iPad" sounds more reasonable, if the woman in question is a professional earning a good living.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Elfmama on March 11, 2013, 11:30:14 PM
My parents are both 83 and very very bright people. I've held both their hands for nearly a decade trying to get them to independently use email, my dad does well enough that he can get to his Wall Street Journal but my mom.. wow. She can't turn the thing on despite my copious use of written step-by-step notes.

She has convinced herself that she is stupid about computers, she is terribly intimidated by them and I don't think seeing her grandkids 'automatically' figure it all out has helped either.

I've tried Computers for Dummies, basic classes and even had someone close by (I live 2000 miles away) to be on call for her.

This is a woman who got her Masters in the 40s! But she just cannot grasp the patterns and honestly I've given up. I was spending most of the call telling her she is not stupid and it exhausted both of us.

I wish I could be of more help! It didn't help that I'm barely adequate with computers lol.
I noticed that in my parents, also in their 80s.  No problems with dementia, they can tell you what they had for lunch yesterday and that funny story from when they were kids, but they cannot make new procedural memories.  Any new thing that requires more than two steps is "too hard."   Even a step-by-step list doesn't help, because Dad won't read one at all, and Mom reads the whole thing all at once and gets confused.  "Too hard." :(   

And I'm wondering if our whole complex lifestyle is to blame for people who can't do Vital Thing X.  They already have to remember Y, Z, and Q; adding X to the pile just overloads them. 

Learned helplessness is, IMHO, largely the fault of our media.  After all, the media has told us that we can't do the simplest of things like put the dog in the car to go to the vet or boil water for pasta or cut with scissors -- it's tooooooo haaaaaaaaaaaard!  You need their handy-dandy gadget.  Or leave the job to a professional, because even if you manage to do [whatever], it won't look like Martha Stewart's output, but more like that of the Three Stooges. 
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Pen^2 on March 12, 2013, 06:09:12 AM
This. Honestly, I would have stopped answering her calls by now. She sounds utterly obnoxious, and I'm at a loss as to what maintaining the relationship adds to your/DH's life.

Wait...what? Are you implying the OP and her DH should give his mother the cut direct because she's a bit annoying/obtuse about computers?

 :o
Okay, I was a bit flummoxed by what I was reading too -- couldn't believe anyone would suggest cutting their mother out of their life due to one annoying habit. We all annoy our loved ones from time to time. None of us is innoculated against irritating others. If we cut everyone who annoyed us out of our lives, well, we wouldn't have much of a life any more.

According to the OP, she doesn't like visits, doesn't like phone calls, and Mmms instead of cooperating when OP is trying to help w/ the computer. So yeah, I just don't get the point of these interactions.

Hookay, so this is going weird places...

DH has had a very turbulent childhood. He didn't get to see his mother between infancy and the age of 14. He never really knew his mother as a proper child, and as a result has always had something close to an adult-adult relationship going on with her. It is not a mother-son relationship at all, but largely as a result of circumstance (it was absolutely out of her hands at that point for reasons I will not go into). To be suddenly presented with a teenager and be told, "this is your son, suddenly be a mother" is pretty huge, and she (like most people would also) never had the chance to learn to be a mother as one normally does: the relationship evolving as the child grows into something more and more complex. Both DH and I agree that it is worth expending effort to have something of a relationship going, because although she hates socialising and it stresses her considerably, small things she has said and done over the years have indicated that she is somewhat happy knowing that her son doesn't just treat her as some complete stranger woman, as happened to one of her university peers with tragic results. She'll never be able to have a real parent-child relationship, especially with her personality, and that's fine, but if we can give her this small comfort then it's worth it.

A number of times, she has done very inconvenient things (for her) just to make a small gain for DH, but always way behind the scenes since she hates having to deal with the person she's trying to help. She once said, "I couldn't give him the right things when he was a boy, so now I do whatever I can twice as much. If only he were younger, though, because I can't give him much when he's already so grown-up." DH's intense self-sufficiency is troubling for her, because on the one hand she doesn't have to spend time with him at all, but on the other she feels like she owes him what he missed out on as a child, and now he doesn't need it.

Further, I no longer have any family to speak of (big and painful cut). And nothing MIL would realistically do would ever compare to what I used to take from my own parents, so cutting her out to me would be completely ridiculous and over the top. She is stubborn as an ox, frustrating, and antisocial, but she isn't nasty, mean, selfish, or aggressive. Just difficult. There's a difference.

And yes, I am writing this partially because, reading back, I feel guilty for painting MIL in a bad light when she isn't a bad person.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Gyburc on March 12, 2013, 07:44:42 AM
Don't feel guilty, Pen^2! Just because your MIL isn't a bad person, it doesn't mean she can't be immensely frustrating!

I can see exactly why you want to help her, and have tremendous admiration for her given everything that has happened. But it's still OK to get irritated by her when she behaves in an irritating way.

I hope you do get this sorted out so that you don't end up tearing your hair out!  :)
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Lynn2000 on March 12, 2013, 11:11:36 AM
OP, I think your reasons for keeping MIL in your life make more sense now to me (not that they ever had to, of course!), so I hope you can find a way to work around her computer phobia. I had to laugh at the "mouse upside down" bit. I think my own mom did that once. But only once, and she was really embarrassed about it. Because she genuinely wants to learn how to use the computer, whereas MIL's motivation seems a little shaky--when you have to persuade her to go into the computer room, even though she's called you and said, "Tell me how to fix this now!"

I think time limits are definitely a good idea. And making her participate more actively, if you two are going to do this at all--or finding something else to occupy you while you wait for her to follow each of your instructions, so you don't feel like you're wasting your time completely.

Also, my older relatives have really taken to the iPad. The touchscreen aspect seems much more intuitive to them than using a mouse.

With the technophobes I see, a big issue is being afraid to do anything, for fear of destroying everything. I'm very cautious, too, so in a sense I understand where they're coming from. But at some point, if you're going to use the computer at all, you have to make the leap to doing things. Look through all the available commands in a program (without actually clicking on any of them), read the help file, etc.. The thing I dislike most (mentioned before, I'm sure) is when several of my co-workers have to register for a conference using a website we've never seen before--I usually do it first and get through it fine, and other people come running to me with questions about every little dropdown menu and checkbox. They're so afraid of clicking the "next" button with something wrong, like that will bring catastrophe down on them. I am very much low-intermediate in my computer savvy, but I read things carefully several times, look at all the options, check the help boxes, and finally make a decision, knowing that if I realize I've done something wrong, I can always contact a human behind the website/company to help me out. There was another thread about the most important things you could teach your children, and a lot of people mentioned, "the ability to find out something they don't know." That is really important in a lot of areas, technology included.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Minmom3 on March 12, 2013, 11:35:48 AM
*** *** ***

Learned helplessness is, IMHO, largely the fault of our media.  *** *** ***

Or you have people like my own mother, who practiced and perfected learned helplessness by the time I was small.  She could do ANYTHING she put her mind to doing, if and when it suited her.  She much preferred to have you do it for her, because then she knew you loved her.  I think she may have learned this from her mother and grandmother, because my grandmother did everything she could do for my great grandmother.  The difference was, Gram genuinely DID love Nana, and the love was returned, and Nana had done everything she could for Gram in the early years.  It was mutual 'doing' spread out over years.  Nana never ever demanded and berated when something was not done, which is something my mother excels in.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Venus193 on March 12, 2013, 12:03:18 PM
Learned helplessness gets on my last nerve.  In most people it's passive/aggressive, manipulative, and nasty.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: lowspark on March 12, 2013, 12:09:46 PM
Learned helplessness gets on my last nerve.  In most people it's passive/aggressive, manipulative, and nasty.

Yes. And feigned helplessness which I've also seen. Someone who simply cannot do xyz... that is, until they realize it's either them or no one. That's why it's best to back off. Somehow some way, she needs to do it without your help. She'll either figure it out or find someone else (preferrably paid) to help her who is right there instead of a thousand miles away.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: GreenBird on March 12, 2013, 12:19:20 PM
If there's an Apple store near her, one nice thing about encouraging her to get an iPad is that she can take it to the Apple store when she's having trouble with it.  I'm sure her first few help calls would still be to you, but if you're very consistent about only telling her "The folks at the Apple store could help you with that" maybe she'd start going directly to them. 
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: LadyL on March 12, 2013, 12:24:20 PM
Learned helplessness gets on my last nerve.  In most people it's passive/aggressive, manipulative, and nasty.

Yes. And feigned helplessness which I've also seen. Someone who simply cannot do xyz... that is, until they realize it's either them or no one. That's why it's best to back off. Somehow some way, she needs to do it without your help. She'll either figure it out or find someone else (preferrably paid) to help her who is right there instead of a thousand miles away.

Yes, it can be enabling to help someone who is like this. It's amazing what people are suddenly capable of doing when they're motivated! My MIL is like this, for her getting other people to do things for her is kind of a power play/control thing - I don't think she believes she can interact with people in a straightforward way, it always involves a trick or manipulation with her. I'm realizing that it's sad that she thinks no one will pay attention to her/help her/love her without some form of coercion. The sad thing is that the behavior is off putting and becomes a self fulfilling prophecy - she thinks no one cares, so she concocts a ruse to get them involved in her life, they find out and don't like being deceived and are less likely to care in the future.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: camlan on March 13, 2013, 06:41:49 AM
Learned helplessness is, IMHO, largely the fault of our media. 

Learned helplessness with technology, maybe.

But learned helplessness has been around a very long time, before home computers, at least.

I've seen it with friends and I've seen it with co-workers. They simply can't learn to use the blender or the copy machine or drive a car or use the tv. They flutter their hands helplessly and get someone else to do the work for them.

I have a feeling back in 1880, there was someone who couldn't learn to start the fire in the coal stove, or can peaches, or sew a seam.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Venus193 on March 13, 2013, 07:34:56 AM
Very true, Camlan.

With regard to technology, the media is responsible for imbuing the public with the insane idea that if Junior isn't on the information superhighway when he's two minutes out of the womb he'll be roadkill.  I have one friend who fell for this hook, line, and sinker and forever goes on about how young people grew up with computers and are therefore better at them automatically than she can ever be.

This is nothing more than a ploy by the tech companies to sell more units.  I have relatives in their 80s who are online and who play computer games.  The idea that you need to be young to learn them is poppycock and balderdash.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: LadyClaire on March 13, 2013, 08:05:39 AM
Very true, Camlan.

With regard to technology, the media is responsible for imbuing the public with the insane idea that if Junior isn't on the information superhighway when he's two minutes out of the womb he'll be roadkill.  I have one friend who fell for this hook, line, and sinker and forever goes on about how young people grew up with computers and are therefore better at them automatically than she can ever be.

This is nothing more than a ploy by the tech companies to sell more units.  I have relatives in their 80s who are online and who play computer games.  The idea that you need to be young to learn them is poppycock and balderdash.

My 81 year old grandfather enjoys using the computer. He's even on facebook. He does have trouble on occasion with new technology, but he figures it out himself, like most people will do.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: LadyClaire on March 13, 2013, 08:09:15 AM
Learned helplessness is, IMHO, largely the fault of our media. 

Learned helplessness with technology, maybe.

But learned helplessness has been around a very long time, before home computers, at least.

I've seen it with friends and I've seen it with co-workers. They simply can't learn to use the blender or the copy machine or drive a car or use the tv. They flutter their hands helplessly and get someone else to do the work for them.

I have a feeling back in 1880, there was someone who couldn't learn to start the fire in the coal stove, or can peaches, or sew a seam.

There's a professor at work who could not figure out how to save things anywhere but to her desktop. IT kept telling her to save things to her H drive, which is backed up on the network, because if a virus ever hit her computer or if the hard drive crashed she'd lose everything.

Sure enough, a virus hit her computer that was nasty to the point of infecting all her files, and she lost everything. She'd never backed up her files on a thumb drive or anything, so she lost years of exam question banks, lecture slides, research papers, and so on. You'd think she would have learned her lesson, right? Nope. About a year later, same thing happened.

She's in her 30s, so it's not even an age thing with her. She just refuses to learn how to properly use a computer, despite the fact that she used them in college and should be well aware of how they work.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Elfmama on March 13, 2013, 09:02:08 AM

There's a professor at work who could not figure out how to save things anywhere but to her desktop.
That's where my mother saves her favorite websites. And emails that she wants to keep.  Because bookmarking something or clicking & dragging things to a folder marked "Stuff to keep" is too complicated. ::)  (It's that procedural memory thing again.) She was also VERY upset that her latest computer didn't have a floppy drive.  "Where will I save all of  my stuff?"  DH explained that she didn't need to save things to a floppy any more.  That the storage space on her hard drive was as much as 40,000 floppies.  And that we had saved all of the information to a thumb drive and we would put it on the computer for her.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: lowspark on March 13, 2013, 09:51:27 AM
Learned helplessness is, IMHO, largely the fault of our media. 

Learned helplessness with technology, maybe.

But learned helplessness has been around a very long time, before home computers, at least.

I've seen it with friends and I've seen it with co-workers. They simply can't learn to use the blender or the copy machine or drive a car or use the tv. They flutter their hands helplessly and get someone else to do the work for them.

I have a feeling back in 1880, there was someone who couldn't learn to start the fire in the coal stove, or can peaches, or sew a seam.

The bolded above reminds me of the scene in City Slickers where Billy Crystal is trying to explain how to program a VCR to Daniel Stern and it is not sinking in. Bruno Kirby gets frustrated and angry and says something like "even the cows know how to do it by now!"

Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Jaelle on March 14, 2013, 07:46:46 PM
Learned helplessness is, IMHO, largely the fault of our media.  After all, the media has told us that we can't do the simplest of things like put the dog in the car to go to the vet or boil water for pasta or cut with scissors -- it's tooooooo haaaaaaaaaaaard! 

Erm.  ???  As a member of the media, who's used to being blamed for everything under the sun, I'm wondering where this one came from. I can only assume you that things I've done have been more along the lines of "you can learn this!" than "it's toooooo haaaaaaard!"

Sigh.

OP, how is your MIL healthwise? The first thing I thought of when I read it was that she's starting to slip a bit mentally, and rather than admit it even a little, she's "hmmm"ing and stalling.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: PastryGoddess on March 14, 2013, 11:59:54 PM
Learned helplessness is, IMHO, largely the fault of our media.  After all, the media has told us that we can't do the simplest of things like put the dog in the car to go to the vet or boil water for pasta or cut with scissors -- it's tooooooo haaaaaaaaaaaard! 

Erm.  ???  As a member of the media, who's used to being blamed for everything under the sun, I'm wondering where this one came from. I can only assume you that things I've done have been more along the lines of "you can learn this!" than "it's toooooo haaaaaaard!"

Sigh.

OP, how is your MIL healthwise? The first thing I thought of when I read it was that she's starting to slip a bit mentally, and rather than admit it even a little, she's "hmmm"ing and stalling.

I think she meant "media" in general.  Don't take it personally
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: WolfWay on March 15, 2013, 02:05:56 AM
Learned helplessness is, IMHO, largely the fault of our media.  After all, the media has told us that we can't do the simplest of things like put the dog in the car to go to the vet or boil water for pasta or cut with scissors -- it's tooooooo haaaaaaaaaaaard! 

Erm.  ???  As a member of the media, who's used to being blamed for everything under the sun, I'm wondering where this one came from. I can only assume you that things I've done have been more along the lines of "you can learn this!" than "it's toooooo haaaaaaard!"

Sigh.

OP, how is your MIL healthwise? The first thing I thought of when I read it was that she's starting to slip a bit mentally, and rather than admit it even a little, she's "hmmm"ing and stalling.

I think she meant "media" in general.  Don't take it personally

Could also have been a reference to those irritating informercials where everyday tasks become herculean efforts unless you buy their nifty new gadget.

Foul language ahoy, but this is what I'm talking about:

http://www.cracked.com/blog/9-simple-tasks-that-no-one-in-commercial-can-do-right/

Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: JeanFromBNA on March 15, 2013, 05:24:09 PM
If I were you, I would find the best, local tech pros that do housecalls.  Since she only uses the internet to amuse herself, it's not a true emergency.  When she calls, just tell her to call the "Computer Guys" in the morning, or first thing Monday morning. 

I'm guessing that she can afford to pay for services by your description.  Yes, it's a waste of money to have them come out to find out she's using the mouse upside down, but you're more invested in her problem than she is; time to turn that upside down.
Title: Re: Parents who are Computer Illiterate
Post by: Need to Change on March 15, 2013, 07:34:12 PM
Based on your update, OP, I suspect the tech is not the big issue -- it's tech plus sudden motherhood plus lifelong social insecurity and/or avoidance.  Triple brain-freeze, anyone?

All of the advice you've been given on the tech aspect is great.  If she is at all motivated, she may eventually work her way past constant confusion. 

But maybe the missing piece is for mother and son to find another way to relate.  Could there be a mutual interest or activity or topic of conversation that they both enjoy?   I say this knowing it could be a mountain-high challenge to find such a thing.

Conversely, MIL may come around if she can be assured that there are no big expectations on her son's end, just acceptance of the past and, hopefully with time, enjoyment of a present and future at a level of closeness that works for all of you.