It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity. —Albert Einstein
The geek in me was very excited this past week when IBM announced they are allowing public access to their new quantum computer. We are on the verge of the next huge leap forward in computing technology. What this means for research and scientific advancement is mind boggling. Our children will understand more not only about the what but the why of the universe than we ever thought to question. This is a great move forward for everyone.
Well, maybe not everyone. One of the biggest challenges moms have is trying to keep up with their children’s technology. This may not be as much of an issue for young mothers just yet; as long as technology stays at a fairly steady pace we can learn along with the kids. But when it takes a significant leap, such as it did in 1984 and is about to do again, the older we are the more challenging it can be to keep up.
The problem is not necessarily unique to moms, but the sad fact is that most women born in the 20th century have not had as much access to match, science, and technology education as have men. All three have long been considered the domain of men, despite the fact that some of the most brilliant discoveries have been made by women. As a result, many of our moms have difficulty understanding the technology that seems second nature to their children or grandchildren.
My mother was one of those people. Despite being a well-educated teacher with a masters degree, when it came to computers and more advanced technology, not only did she have difficulty understanding how they worked, she didn’t really want anything to do with them. She was proud of the fact that my younger brother was a computer whiz and appreciated what we were able to do with them, but technology was the one area she was happy to leave alone.
When Poppa’s eyesight failed him, we finally convinced them that a computer was a good thing. My brother successfully convinced Poppa that the computer could increase the size of the type so that he would be better able to read. We also introduced them to email by sending them pictures of their grandsons, who were always being adorably cute. Poppa loved it, and Mother loved getting the pictures, but she waited until Poppa printed them out. She wasn’t going to bother looking at them online.
Then came the day Poppa was no longer there. A couple of days after his funeral, I found Mother sitting at the desk staring at the computer. “Do you want to check email?” I asked, knowing she didn’t know how.
“The funeral home gave me a link to an online condolence page,” she said, “but I don’t even know how to turn the stupid computer on.” Tears were, again, streaming down her face. Losing her partner of over 42 years was difficult enough, but being faced with all the things he did that she didn’t understand was hitting her hard. I pulled up a chair and sat next to her. After a couple of hours, she could at least check email, enter the URL the funeral home had given her, and visit a couple of websites for widowed pastor’s wives.
Mother only lived six more months, unfortunately, but in that length of time, she finally became comfortable enough to save the photos we emailed to her without having to print them all, and even found a couple of online games that she didn’t hate.
I think of all that has been developed over the past 14 years, though, and wonder how well she would have adapted. She was okay with the first simple cell phone they had, but given how that smartphones often frustrate me I can only imagine that one would come close to making her curse. She might have gotten on Facebook, perhaps (after a lot of coaching), but there’s no way she would have touched any of the other social media apps.
Keeping up with technology is rough for any of us who are not actively involved in development, but for someone whose primary frame of reference is significantly less digital, even what we might consider simple technology like setting a digital clock or working a remote control, can be daunting. So, since this is Mother’s Day, why not take a moment and see if your mom or grandmother or great-grandmother needs help with technology forced upon them. Check their security settings. Make sure they’re not giving out their passwords. Be gentle and loving.
Just, uhm, maybe consider keeping her off Tinder. She doesn’t need to see that.