“Jack” Rabbit Holes — Journeys with Devices

The past few weeks has provided a nice opportunity to work with individuals needing help negotiating their electronic devices.

A younger person might insert some comment about “Old People and Iphones,” but I’m a proud member of AARP and don’t necessarily see age as a barrier to effective learning. What I have found is that wiser individuals tend to recognize and shy away from rabbit holes. I appreciate this wisdom even if I can’t always make use of it myself.

If I’m helpful its because I have spent so much time in rabbit holes that I’m a competent traveler, and able to provide safe passage into and out of the rabbit hole. Taking a solo journey through the rabbit hole can be lonely and frustrating, but traveling a rabbit hole together can be fun and fruitful if you trust your partner.

Some of the issues that I’ve explored recently include: understanding and disabling the “mail” application on apple computers; understanding when to make use of icloud (friends have found it useful as a way to find a lost phone, but not helpful for organizing files and photos); understanding what one can and can’t expect from Apple TV; Understanding how to take advantage of a wireless printer and scanner, recovering files from a crashed hard drive…and the list could continue…

The interesting thing about this list, is that each “issue” was not necessarily described in the original problem, meaning that we started down the hole in order to solve one problem, and along the way we worked out solutions to many other problems so that we could eventually make our way back to the surface.

For instance, Ms. J. and I were sitting at her mac mini and she was wondering why there was a notification bubble with more than 3000 messages on her Mail icon. The Mail application was running and she was afraid to close it. Her life partner had passed more than two years ago and she had not known what to do with his email messages. Fearing that she might one day need to refer to some correspondence, she had let it be. (This might be too obvious to note, but I’m discovering that problems with with technology are closely tied to deeply personal and complicated relationships to humans, and that finding satisfying solutions requires an acknowledgement and sensitivity toward all of life’s challenges.)

We set out to remove this notification bubble and along the way, we discovered that her partner’s yahoo account had been deleted do to 12 months of inactivity, that mail was actually remotely checking her own personal email account, that she could turn off notifications, unlink all accounts, change the configuration of her mouse to accommodate left-handed users, have her java automatically updated (or deleted), and that she was perhaps a bit relieved that she no longer had the added burden of archiving or curating the email correspondence of her partner.

I am hoping to return to the surface of this post, but before I do, I want to note how, of all the journeys that I take with people, I’m actually most comfortable with the human element, the element that speaks to life’s complications and beauty.