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How do I crack my I.T phobia?
February 5, 2014 1:08 AM   Subscribe

It's not much of an exaggeration to say I am bordering on phobic about I.T, whilst this is a source of hilarity to my peers as I'm in my 30's not 80's.. it is actually something I feel sensitive about. I have questioned where it's come from (my creepy I.T teacher at school? Something of a distaste for modern life?) I'm inconclusive and this doesn't 'get the job done'.

Though a professional for 10+ years.. I'm from a touchy feely work background so it hasn't been a huge issue workwise... though certainly a problem at times....

I am pretty resourceful in trying to tackle stuff (have done countless courses) but it doesn't seem to help. Excuse the generalisation, but I have often found that though skilled in I.T the teachers I've come across haven't necessarily been the best socially/at putting things across.

What I can do: The absoloute basic on a mobile - texting and calling.
Research stuff on the net/email basics/ok-ish on word/powerpoint basics.

What I can't do: Anything else. I am totally flummaxed at the jargon.. have more of a questioning mind than a 'logical' one and am very close to launching a business. More than anything I'm worried about I.T

If anyone has anything that really helped them books/tutorials/mindsets I would love to know?
I have an Acer laptop, windows 7 and power-point etc 2010
I have no interest in Faceboast, but should probably get on LinkedIn. Stuff to organise me better would be useful too.
posted by tanktop to Technology (23 answers total)
 
I think it isn't helpful -- or, from what you've said, accurate -- to characterise yourself as "IT phobic." You use IT and clearly can learn to use IT.

What other things do you want to do besides texting, calling, browse, email and create Word and PowerPoint documents?
posted by DarlingBri at 1:33 AM on February 5 [4 favorites]


I dunno, by IT phobia what do you mean? From your description you seem as perfectly capable, IT-wise, as most thirtysomethings in a non-IT field and with no interest in technology.

Tech generally is a tool to solve specific problems, not a monolith that you need to crack. So maybe the question is, what are you interested in learning and/or doing? What are the problems your lack of IT knowledge have caused you exactly, and can you address them directly?

For example - if you want to get a LinkedIn profile: it's pretty easy, just sign up and it will walk you through all the things you need to do to set up your profile, which you are also free to skip if you want. If you want to self-organise better: if you have the full Office 2010 suite it probably includes Outlook, which is an okay email client that also has a calendar and a to-do list.

On the other hand, if your question is because you're close to launching a business and you need to handle IT, you should probably hire a dedicated IT person to do it.
posted by Xany at 1:35 AM on February 5


Stuff to organise me better would be useful too.

For some people, paper just works better.

One thing you do need to sort out is backups for your files/communications/etc. Offsite backups, including some flavor of versioning, and confirming that you can restore from your backups.
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:55 AM on February 5


You need to figure out what the problem you're trying to solve is.

Are you...

Afraid of breaking something by accident?
- Ask for some kind of automatic backup/versioning. Then it doesn't matter if you break something.

Things do break and you get frustrated - and don't know what to do?
- Half the problems your IT department sees are fixed by 'Turn it off and back on, and check all the cables are attached at both ends.' If that fails, google any error message you see (or send it to the IT guy.)

Constantly unsure how to do ?
- Generally this involves a lot of 'trying things and looking around various menus until it works.'

Thinking 'I have no idea if it worked so I'll click it again'... and it makes it worse?
- Best solution for this variant of problem is usually 'get faster computer.'

Accidentally getting viruses/toolbars/things breaking?
- Learn what not to click on: any file that is .exe.

Wanting to do something like 'organise yourself' but not sure exactly what?
- Really depends what you want to do. Sorry.

Unsure how to do 'x':
- Google 'doing computer'.

Some other variant of phobia:
- Be more specific!

Courses for that kind of area tend to focus on the minutae of specific tasks in a specific application - which tends to be very boring and thus hard to remember - and isn't hugely portable to a different task or application.

posted by Ashlyth at 3:27 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


It sounds your problem is with IT people - rather than any particular technologies. That is in no way unusual - many organisations I've worked for have been an aggregation of departments which have a mutual distrust of each other - often on the basis of stereotypes.

As you point out, this sort of attitude will not be a real impairment to you as an employee: occasionally something will go wrong with your Outlook mailbox and an IT support person will come out to try to fix it. It will all seem to take forever. Your conversation will be awkward. You will give him your account of the problem and he will give you his account which will seem to ignore your contribution and talk about something entirely different.

The point where this will start to be a problem, however, is as you look for more senior jobs - or if you branch out on your own. This is the stage where empathy for bean counters, techies, mailroom people and all the other roles that are not directly yours becomes really important. Here are 6 steps you can take to improve your empathy.
posted by rongorongo at 4:15 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


You need to figure out what the problem you're trying to solve is.

This is the core of your problem.

Look at the way Ashlyth's answer is written: a list of very specific points.

You've also written your question in terms of specific points. The difference is that you've put all these points together in a bucket of "everything I know about IT, including that I'm scared of it".

have more of a questioning mind than a 'logical' one and am very close to launching a business

Take the same kind of analysis as you're using to launch and run your business, and apply it to learning more about IT. If, on the other hand, you're more questioning than logical about your business as well, you might want to consider hiring someone to fill an analytical/managerial role.
posted by tel3path at 5:42 AM on February 5 [2 favorites]


Lynda.com has tutorials for everything related to technology. You could pick some specific software or things you want to learn and try that.

I will add though, it's unclear what your goal is and what you really want to be able to do. Clarifying might help us. If you just want to be less bad with technology, using it more would and looking for answers when you have questions help.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:35 AM on February 5


If anyone has anything that really helped them books/tutorials/mindsets I would love to know?

Mindset-wise, there's a physical analogue for almost everything we do on computers. As others have mentioned above, decide what you need for your business (Accounting? Marketing? Customer/sales management? Operations?)

I have an Acer laptop, windows 7 and power-point etc 2010
For what you've mentioned thus far, that's probably fine as a lot of stuff has "moved onto the cloud." What this means in non-jargon is the heavy lifting of the software is now handled by some one else's computer(s) rather than your ole Acer laptop and in many cases, just a fast internet connection for you to be able to connect your laptop to these other computers is good enough.

I have no interest in Faceboast, but should probably get on LinkedIn.

OK, it sounds to me like you'd like to know how to get your name out there, related to your business. Linkedin is a good start but I tend to think of it as promoting yourself as a worker working for someone else. Go ahead and sign up for LinkedIn, they have a fairly easy to use step-by-step new user flow that helps a lot. One caveat: LinkedIn will offer to "help you find connections for you" (or some variation of that wording) which really means "Linkedin is requesting permission to access your address book/contacts on your PC or gmail or whatever computer-based means you might be using. Say no to this, there's no reason LinkedIn needs to know who you know and you will be able to track down the folks you know in LinkedIn without doing this.

For many kinds of businesses, being on Facebook is actually something you'll want to consider. Remember: go where your customers are. 1.19 Billion of them are on Facebook and a good chunk of them never really go anywhere else on the web.

You might need to build a website for your business. Think of your website as the electronic version of whatever paper collateral your business needs: brochures for marketing, contact information and product catalog for sales, order form if you are selling a product you want customers to buy from you. For this, given the current state of your comfort level with IT, hire someone to build the site for you. You concentrate on deciding what you want to say and how to say it and the overall feel you want to promote.

Stuff to organise me better would be useful too.

Fortunately, there's tons of free and low-cost choices in this area, you can try a few on for size and keep the one that makes the most sense for you. It's totally OK to dump a piece of software because you find it confusing to use, a well designed application shouldn't make you feel stupid.

Contacts: I know some people who rely paper rolodexes even now, what works for you is what works. Software-wise, these are available from something not more sophisticated than an electronic rolodex on up to CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software. Like any business-person, you decide which what tool you need to invest in based on your current needs x future goals.

If you need to get organized about doing stuff or being somewhere on time, look into task lists and calendars.

If you need to manage your note-taking and archiving, I quite like Evernote. There's many others in this same field.
posted by jamaro at 8:53 AM on February 5


I want to say congratulations! You know what brand, operating system and suite software you are using. That is significantly more than many people (especially in an non IT field) can do. Seriously.

You can browse the internet, check e-mail and use the Microsoft suite. Aside from that, there really isn't all that much you need to inherently know how to do unless your work is making you use some specialized software. If they are, they should provide training.

My advice: if you come across a problem/or something you do not know how to do: google it. The how-to's and problem solving WILL help you figure it out.

Want to change the wallpaper in windows 7? Just google it. Need to update the audio drivers? Just google it. You know how to use the internet and follow directions, so there really is not problem.
posted by AlexiaSky at 9:26 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


What others said above about defining your question better, but I will note that it sounds like you might love a cheap Chromebook - like the Acer or Samsung one.

These are really, really easy to use from the perspective of not breaking things because of how limited they are.
posted by odinsdream at 9:46 AM on February 5


First thing I try to make my more IT-averse customers understand when I'm working on their computers is that the correct fundamental attitude toward your computer is not fear, but contempt.

Machines can sense fear. They also work much better if they know you're liable to give them a scientific slap upside the casing if they misbehave.

You think I'm joking, but I'm not.
posted by flabdablet at 10:13 AM on February 5 [1 favorite]


Thanks so far. Hard to be specific, apologies, as it feels pretty generalised fear. A few examples of how it manifests...

I'm going to be doing powerpoints. I'm crapping self it will go wrong (like it does for even people competent with this) and that I would be clueless/freeze a little.. about what to do about it and would look incompetent may not even be able to set it up.. though I will try and do a mock run people have said they (the projectors? screens?) vary a bit... this makes me anxious.

Above people mentionned versionning and drivers ? because presumably that would mean something to most people. I will look it up and probably then feel more confused and then have to look up 3 more things from the description and then be more confused.. and feel a tad anti-fantastic by this point. if I'm honest. Along the lines of "I can't get this.. this is %*"!ing pointless".

I have to buy a mobile phone I can email from.. I am nervous about not understanding a word the sales person says/not being able to use email from a moby/not being able to figure out how to email or what I will need for the business basics.

As for streaming/downloading music etc/photos I live in a vacuum. God knows what the first one even means.. I haven't taken a photo in 10 years? Since we used to use films.
posted by tanktop at 10:21 AM on February 5


It sounds to me as though you need to instill in yourself some self-confidence in IT/computers. I'd suggest signing up for some classes with a patient instructor - I always see advertisements for local tutors/classes. A good teacher will essentially be the opposite of the stereotype in your head of an IT manager; it should work out well.
posted by destructive cactus at 10:46 AM on February 5


Your local community college/college of adult education/whatever, probably has some classes. Go sign up for some courses!

When you're learning something, you don't know it already. There will be a certain point when the penny will drop and you'll be in the right mindset.

Would it help you to know that I didn't know how to turn on a computer until I was 25? And that I am now a computer scientist in a world-class laboratory? And you're a hell of a lot further ahead than I was when I got started with this stuff.
posted by tel3path at 11:56 AM on February 5


Most of the sort of people who feel comfortable with computers, didn't sit down and systematically learn how to be "good with IT". They picked it up piecemeal according to their needs.

My late grandmother, god bless her, had absolutely no time for the internet. She said it was a stupid waste of time, right up until I pointed out that she could find free sheet music and knitting patterns on the internet. At which point she learned just as much as she needed to find those things and then amended her opinion to everything else on the internet being a stupid waste of time.

So go through your non-IT hobbies and interests and find one that you like enough to learn a little IT for the hobby's sake.

Examples:

I never took a class teaching me how to touch type, I just spent a lot of time chatting to penfriends online and slowly got faster and more accurate.

I never took a class in how to make websites. I just read somewhere that you could see how any website was made by right-clicking on the page and choosing View Source. Then I copied little bits of what I saw other people doing so that I could make a website for my short stories.

I never took a class in how to edit pictures using a computer. I just wanted to put funny captions on stills from movies and TV. Then once I could do that, I started making gradually more elaborate images.

I never took a class in how to make simple viral games. I just had a funny idea for one that nobody else seemed to be making and was motivated enough to try and make it myself.

I never took a class in how to edit video. I just thought it would be super funny to bleep out completely G-rated words in a clip from a TV show to make it sound filthy, so I taught myself the bare minimum to make that video. Then it got super-popular on Youtube and I was motivated to learn to make more complicated stuff like mashups and music videos.

I never took a class that taught me all the keyboard shortcuts I use that let me do stuff super-fast and which make my less IT-literate co-workers look at me like I'm some sort of wizard. I just taught myself the shortcuts one at a time, because I fucking hate using a mouse.

These days I get paid a salary to make games and websites and videos and stuff, but that was never the plan starting out. I just had an idea for a goofy thing that would entertain my friends and then had to learn a couple of new skills each time in order to make it. I've tried a couple of times to teach myself other IT skills in a more systematic way from books or classes and it invariably goes wrong because I am ultimately not a systematic person. I'm a creative person who likes the relatively instant gratification of piking up a new skill and immediately using it so that I can show off the thing I just made.

(I also held out against getting a cell phone for ages. Then I found a website that would send you microfiction via text message. I love reading; I bought a phone the next day. Being in the forefront of technology is just about knowing what you want from it.)
posted by the latin mouse at 12:06 PM on February 5 [3 favorites]


Look for resources for small businesses, starting a business, or entrepreneurship.

You do this by googleing something like "small business resources townname statename", but put the name of your town and state in for townname and statename. If you live somewhere else, put in whatever you call that place even if it isn't a state.

There are many classes and workshops available to help people start businesses. Sometimes these cover technology. In some places they are free because of programs that seek to create jobs. Hopefully there is something useful to you nearby.

Classes aimed specifically at small business people will probably be more helpful to you right now. If you can find a class about online marketing that would most likely be a good thing for your business.
posted by yohko at 12:41 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


tanktop, you seem to have the general anxiety and frustration a lot of the less technologically skilled do, and in my experience, it leads to a sort of vicious cycle of learned helplessness when it comes to technology. Stop the cycle in its tracks by pushing past your anxiety and frustration and just try stuff. It takes patience and persistence, but the more you learn, the less anxious and overwhelmed you'll feel.

Like the latin mouse says, a lot of us who are considered "good at computers" are just people who messed around on computers and the internet teaching ourselves stuff, and our IT support to others consists of common sense solutions like unplugging and turning stuff off and on, and googling their questions ourselves and implementing the solutions.

As for what you can do on a mobile phone, if you get an iPhone and live near an Apple store, they have multiple free workshops that show people the basics of using their iPhones or other Apple devices. If you're planning on getting any new devices soon, or if you already have an iPhone, that's always an option.
posted by yasaman at 2:03 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


I am not IT phobic, but my boss is. Part of the problem, I think, is that they came of age during that period when you might get a FATAL ERROR message and be sure you messed something up permanently. That is largely not the case today.

Type any question you might have into google and have confidence that you are probably not going to screw things up significantly unless the google results say explicitly, "Don't try this unless [blah, blah, blah]."

Try something, email it to yourself and go crazy. Even if you totally mess up (unlikely), your IT people can probably fix it.
posted by Morrigan at 4:36 PM on February 5


Versioning backups means storing backups of files so that when you update a file and then save it to your backup, you don't obliterate the old all_my_addresses.txt with the new all_my_addresses.txt .

The more proper term is incremental backups.

That's important because the new version of the all_my_addresses.txt may be corrupted with a typo or the program barfed or something. And then your addressbook is toast.

Just buying an external harddisk and doing backups by copying a folder over won't be incremental backups. But using proper backup software and storing a copy of stuff in the "cloud", AKA "on a professionally managed server in a building somewhere" will do it, if you click the "do incremental backups" button on the software you're using.

tanktop, you seem to have the general anxiety and frustration a lot of the less technologically skilled do, and in my experience, it leads to a sort of vicious cycle of learned helplessness when it comes to technology. Stop the cycle in its tracks by pushing past your anxiety and frustration and just try stuff. It takes patience and persistence, but the more you learn, the less anxious and overwhelmed you'll feel.

Yeah, this is a lot like math anxiety or some other stuff-learning anxiety, where your brain puts more work into fretting than into learning. Keep a little fifty-cent paper notebook and write new words into it, and look them up when you can or get a IT person to help you. And start identifying when you're fretting and do a mini mindfulness exercise like taking a deep breath or something.

Your local community college/college of adult education/whatever, probably has some classes. Go sign up for some courses!
Or local computer club - try your local library/rec center for a list of resources.

Most of the sort of people who feel comfortable with computers, didn't sit down and systematically learn how to be "good with IT". They picked it up piecemeal according to their needs.

One trick when trying to figure out new software is to systematically grind through all the pulldown menus. This is how a lot of computer savvy people fix stuff for relatives, when it's new software they've never seen before.
posted by sebastienbailard at 6:12 PM on February 5 [1 favorite]


I'm going to be doing powerpoints. I'm crapping self it will go wrong (like it does for even people competent with this) and that I would be clueless/freeze a little.. about what to do about it and would look incompetent may not even be able to set it up..

In other words, you're in the same place as 99% of the people I know who do powerpoints. Which means the fault lies not with you, but with Powerpoint. Rest assured that your audience knows this, and that anybody who gives you a hard time on the day something falls over is just a petty little office politician whose career is likely to be solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short.

though I will try and do a mock run

The trick with Powerpoints is not to try to do a mock run, but to be absolutely inflexible about doing the mock run. Every time. Even if your last 500 presentations have gone off without a hitch.

You require the availability of two vital things: a clear half hour immediately before your presentation starts, and access to the person who understands how the onsite data projector is supposed to work.

people have said they (the projectors? screens?) vary a bit... this makes me anxious.

Rightly so. They are pricks of things to set up, and you absolutely will need personal backup for the first dozen or so.

However, DO NOT throw your hands in the air and declare that it's all too hard and start believing you're always going to need the helpful IT guy to set this stuff up for you. Pay close attention to what the helpful IT guy is doing, and ask why, and take notes.

And no, of course you don't have time for this shit. Nobody does. But dealing with computers has always involved and will always involve an irreducible minimum of wasted time. Don't buy into the industry lie that a computer is a time saving device. It's not. It's an expensive, fragile, irritating time suck, and being forced to use one is a perfectly legitimate reason for resentment.

I'm going to let you in on the computer industry's dirty little secret: the main purpose of personal computers is not to save you time. It's to worm their way into everybody's daily business until the things they can do become the things you must do.

There was no such thing as a Powerpoint presentation when I went to school. If you wanted a room full of people to see something, you used an overhead projector. These are kind of bulky and annoying but they work every time and if you've ever seen one used you immediately know exactly how to use them.

But now, instead of spending a few minutes photocopying stuff onto transparent sheets to make an overhead projector presentation that you can annotate as you go with a felt tip pen, you are required to spend hours putting together a Powerpoint file that has at least a 70% chance of being useless due to any one of hundreds of causes of equipment failure. Oh by the way, the equipment costs twice as much to buy and will want replacing every three years. And you can't scribble on your presentation with anything as simple as a pen. Oh dear no. Pens are so last century. Here, you need this high-tech faux pen, a bargain at $99.95 (batteries not included).

You put yourself through all this pain because an overhead projector presentation is no longer seen as "professional": Powerpoint has wormed its way in and is now parasitizing everybody's expectations. Likewise, you no longer get taken seriously if your business letters don't look typeset: word processors and laser printers have wormed their way in. And a back-of-the-envelope calculation obviously looks much more trustworthy if it's dressed in a spreadsheet's clothing.

So, don't get fearful. Get resentful and angry, and use that anger to motivate you to beat these mindless little electronic fuckers at their own game. Learn to use them against themselves.

And if you really want to wow a Powerpoint audience, equip yourself with a backup plan you can deploy in two minutes when (not if) Powerpoint has crapped itself again, and practice your "I cannot believe this shit" look in the bathroom mirror.
posted by flabdablet at 7:42 PM on February 5 [2 favorites]


One trick when trying to figure out new software is to systematically grind through all the pulldown menus. This is how a lot of computer savvy people fix stuff for relatives, when it's new software they've never seen before.

This flowchart is a 100% accurate description of how I fix relatives and co-workers computers.


Pay close attention to what the helpful IT guy is doing, and ask why, and take notes.

This. Learning this stuff is an iterative process.

The first time you're going to need the IT guy, but if you pay attention to what he does, then the second time you can try copying that first. That way when the IT guy shows up you can save him some time and say "Well, I tried [X] and that didn't help" which makes you look a bit more knowledgeable.

Keep doing this and eventually when PowerPoint breaks in new and exciting ways (as it inevitably will), you won't be standing there looking helpless. You'll be greeting the IT guy with an authoritative "Hey Jack, I've tried adjusting the doohickey, reconnecting the squirble and even recalibrating the thingummibob." And then you and Jack can exchange a look of shared contempt for the stupid programme.
posted by the latin mouse at 3:19 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


Thanks lovely people :)
The first time.. ever??? I've had a giggle about i.t.. which has got to be a move in the right direction.

You've definately given be some new things to think about/try and I now feel slightly less outlandish in my fear :)
posted by tanktop at 4:10 AM on February 6 [1 favorite]


For what it's worth, the thingummibob usually recalibrates itself after you've adjusted the doohickey and reconnected the squirble. But sometimes it pays to reticulate splines using a hexagonal decode system so you can build a GUI in Visual Basic and track an IP address.
posted by flabdablet at 8:48 AM on February 6


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