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Beacon Senior News

You don't have to be fascinated by technology to use it

Feb 22, 2021 12:20PM ● By Adam Cochran
pliers, technology

Restaurants, stores and other facilities are beginning to open up more to the public, including 970West Studio—Mesa County Libraries’ fancy media technology building. 

I was recently given a tour of the studio, and it’s an incredible 21st-century resource for anyone looking to create video, podcasts, convert obsolete media formats, or even make music. I was also told about the library’s more traditional technology resources available in their open computer lab.

When the tour concluded, I was asked, “Which of these areas did you find the most fascinating?”

I was a little baffled by the question. Then I was baffled that the question had me so baffled.

Later, as I reflected on it, I realized that I’m not the least bit fascinated by technology.

I’ve been the go-to expert for friends, family, customers and strangers for 20 years, but technology by itself is not intriguing. I think that’s why it’s such a strong aptitude for me.

One of the first pieces of advice I give someone when I am teaching them how to get the most out of their technology is, “Don’t try to learn the computer (or phone, tablet, camera, etc.). Instead, learn how to do what you want to do with the technology.”

In other words, essentially every tech device available today has a nearly infinite number of uses and can be used in a nearly infinite number of ways.

For example, your smartphone can be used as a GPS, media player, web browser, compass and even a telephone. But each of those uses can be broken down further. The camera on your phone can be used for sending selfies, price-checking barcodes at Walmart, or shooting slow-motion videos of your dog.

When someone asks me to teach them how to use their phone, I don’t know where to begin. But, if someone says, “Teach me how to take better pictures of my kids with my phone,” I know precisely how to help them. This advice applies to all technology.

Technology is a tool. Some devices are sexier to look at than others, but it’s the device’s function that makes it interesting.

I’ve listened to $50,000 speakers and watched on $120,000 television sets. I’ve even used $20,000 computer systems. In every case, I was astounded by what the technology could do for humans, but the circuitry, pixels and wattage didn’t make any difference.

Most people who are overwhelmed by technology fail to see their devices and gadgets in this light. They see their family and friends using their phones to look up recipes, scan documents and post TikTok dances, and they feel some sort of unnecessary obligation to keep up or even shame for not understanding what a TikTok is.

My advice is, stop it. Don’t feel shame. Don’t feel obligated to learn how to do everything your technology is capable of. It’s perfectly fine if you’ve never learned to set the clock on your microwave if you have another clock that works just fine for you. If you can read your email on the computer, don’t feel guilty because you don’t have it set up on your phone.

I like to compare computers, phones and other personal technology devices to a pair of pliers rather than a wrench. A wrench has a specific purpose. It loosens bolts. That’s about it.

But a pair of pliers has infinite uses. However, nobody seems to be wandering around their house with a pair of pliers feeling guilty that they don’t understand all of its uses. Instead, they wait for a problem to come along that they know a pair of pliers would help resolve.

Use that same attitude when it comes to your technology. Start with problems that you’d like to resolve and learn to use your technology to make life easier. You’ll find that, before long, you’ve “learned the computer” because you learned how to use it in ways that make your life easier. And that’s really what technology is all about.