Frustrated over fears of technology |

Frustrated over fears of technology

This job, like any, has its small, frustrating quirks. At the top of that list is some people’s inability, or more accurately refusal, to touch technology.

At least once every two weeks, somebody will stop by the office on Third Street with a typed letter, or they will call in advance to tell me that they are dropping off a typed letter. Inevitably, I ask if they can email it to me, so I can avoid typing the entire message again. And inevitably, the question is met with a response varying in tone, but the ultimate message is: “I don’t email.”

I’ve heard a range of reasons explaining why. Some say they don’t have an email or even use the Internet because of the “dangers” — exposure to being hacked; viruses that could cripple an expensive computer; explicit content that one could easily stumble upon with a couple of careless keystrokes or clicks of the mouse.

Being hacked or accidentally downloading a virus are both valid fears, especially when conducting sensitive business online, such as banking. However, it is not a valid excuse to never send a simple email. That is the equivalent of never learning to drive because you could potentially get in a car wreck, except in that example the potential danger is more costly.

More often than not, though, the excuse I hear is that the person is incapable of learning how to use a computer, let alone navigate the web. The expression “I can’t even turn a computer on” has been uttered a couple of times.

Whatever the excuse is, I’m sick of all of them. You certainly have every right to avoid technology, but, at the same time, you are not so entitled to expect me or anyone else to do the lifting (or typing in this case).

While understanding that stepping into something entirely foreign is typically accompanied by some level of fear, this is admittedly hard for me to grasp. I grew up with a computer and Internet in my home. These days, I read almost all my news online and I do almost all my banking, including paying my electric bill, on my cell phone. No matter how hard I try to sympathize, I simply cannot relate.

To try and gain some understanding I reached out to a friend, John Scalzo. John, at the age of 91, regularly sends me emails. Not only that, he receives 15 to 20 emails per day. I had plenty of questions, which he kindly answered.

John purchased his current computer, a laptop, about five years ago. He was considering purchasing a computer at the time, and his niece gave him the final push. According to John, he picked it up quickly, with some help, and can do the basics, although he still struggles and doesn’t know the function of every key on the keyboard (heck, I don’t know what every key does).

“It’s like getting a new tool. It becomes part of your life,” he said.

As for why others refuse to dive into the digital river, John had several speculations: primarily fear and/or laziness. Either way, he said, “it’s all in their mind — they can do it.” But when I asked him if he would have been as keen on the computer had his niece not helped, John conceded that those without children or family are at a disadvantage.

That is something I can understand. So, if you fall into that camp, if you are open to the idea of buying a computer or setting up an email, but you don’t have anyone to turn to for help, give me a call.

I will gladly come to you and help (I went to John’s house about a month ago when he was having trouble with his email). I would rather take time to help you learn than simply type your letter for you. This could make your life a little easier and my job a little less frustrating.

Ryan Hoffman is editor of The Citizen Telegram. He can be reached at 970-685-2103 or

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