General Etiquette > Family and Children

Parents who are Computer Illiterate

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Pen^2:
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.

Nikko-chan:
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.

oceanus:
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!"
--- End quote ---

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!!  :)

Bluenomi:
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.

blue2000:
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.)

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