Leo Tolstoy famously wrote: “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” But that was before the advent of tech.
Now, family unhappiness is a stressed-out mother trying to work out how to send an emoji, and a dad repeatedly getting a Wi-Fi password wrong while his belligerent, unsympathetic teenagers lose all patience and end up screaming at him.
Technology is supposed to bring us together. Often it does. But equally often it drives us, generationally, apart. So, here is a quick guide to dealing with tech-related interfamilial strife:
1. Try to keep calm
As infuriating as it is to have to explain to one’s mother, as Amy Schumer does in her hilarious sketch below, that one does not need a cord to send an email, it’s not worth getting into a slanging match over tech frustrations. An older colleague once asked me “what is Chrome?” and I had to chew a piece of gum vigorously to stop my head hitting the desk. But frustration is not a good teaching tool. Keep calm. It’s important to remember some people didn’t grow up on MSN messenger and emoticons. (And remember: who is gonna pay for your new iPhone next time Apple roll one out six months after they rolled out the last one? Exactly.)
2. Keep it simple
Don’t explain how an internet router works. Or even mention data speeds. Just wheel out the bare minimum to appease fraught parents. Point to the fact that the ethernet cable is hanging out of “the box” and that’s why “online isn’t working”. Don’t throw phrases like “soft reset” around when your grandfather’s phone crashes – just tell him which buttons to press.
3. Accept that tech words and phrases will be butchered
“The” will be added to the name of every social media platform. The Facebook (its original name, to be fair). The Twitter. The Snapchat. People do not “tweet”; they “twitter”. The “internet” will be interchangeable with the “web”.
SMS messages will be sent, not texts. Don’t even attempt to explain the difference between emoticons and emoji. There’s no point correcting older folks on this – how often do you pay attention when a parent corrects grammar? Just let them call tech whatever makes them comfortable. It’s kinda cute. Infuriating, but cute.
4. Explain the importance of privacy
It’s probably a good idea to explain that “password123” isn’t great for keeping hackers out. Nor is “password124” to “fool them”. Gently let your mum know that the cat’s name also isn’t a wonderful password when 99% of her Facebook is just pictures of her and the cat – and she set up a separate Facebook profile for it. Also, an email from HbsC is probably not actually from the bank. ¯_(?)_/¯
5. Let it go
The difference between Android and iOS. What Android and iOS actually are. What a gif is. How to pronounce gif. Sometimes one must admit defeat. It has taken almost two years for your parents to work out what all the buttons on the Sky remote do, and then you hit them with third-party apps and the concept of airplane mode. It’s too much. Let them live. It’s not worth it. These people raised you: does it really matter if they are never going to grasp what a meme is?
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