My 89-year old mother sees computers and the Internet as things for everyone else to get tangled up in and she wants it to stay that way. She’s fine with using a pencil to do the daily newspaper’s crossword puzzle, rather going online to any of the crossword puzzle sites. Likewise, she has multiple cookbooks to choose from; she doesn’t need a computer to search for recipes. I think about how much time she doesn’t waste online, and I feel envious.
You could say my mom’s a Luddite, but that wouldn’t paint an accurate picture of her relationship with technology. She’s thankful for the modern things that make life more convenient, like the dishwasher and the air conditioner. She’s not entirely convinced that the Internet is one of those welcome conveniences. After all, she’s managed 89 years without relying on urls, dotcoms, gifs and Facebook.
The day my mom asked me about my watercolor paintings seemed like a perfect opportunity to show her my website at snoringdogstudio.com. I grabbed my iPad and launched the site. She was amazed at what she saw—for about 20 seconds. And then she said, “I’ve had enough of the computer.”
Mom has conflicting opinions about the Internet. Sometimes, she’s impressed by what’s out there in cyberspace. At other times, she disdains it. She’ll ask me a question for which I don’t have an answer (that’s quite often), and when I return with the answer, she’s quite impressed. When I tell her that I found the answer online, she rolls her eyes and says scornfully, “Oh, the Internet.”
Mom moans that technology and computers have invaded every aspect of our lives. For example, in my mom’s opinion, online banking is Satan’s playground. It’s an abomination that no one should gaze upon lest it turn you to stone or a pillar of salt. I feel dreadfully sorry for her. One of the reasons she can no longer balance her checkbook has to do with her declining memory. But that doesn’t tell the whole story. She grew up with paper. With my Dad’s help, she learned how to balance her checkbook and that task became a regular, necessary part of her routine. I can remember watching her spend hours looking for that one penny that had gone missing under a string of penciled numbers. She’d persevere and ultimately achieve her goal. And that felt good to her. It was as meaningful and satisfying as baking a delicious cake, fully risen, from scratch. It showed that she had control over her life, not some computer.
My Dad, later on in life, tried to convince her to stop balancing her checkbook and to simply rely on the bank statement. But, she’s still struggling to let her old routine go. My brothers and sister have tried to convince her she no longer has to spend the time doing that task. It’s like asking her to stop eating her beloved Honey Bunches of Oats. Or to stop breathing, even.
It doesn’t help that bank statements are so very onerous to figure out. So damn many words and numbers, columns and rows and pages!
It unnerves my mom to not be able to look at her checkbook and see what her current balance is. Of course, I get that. When I tell her we can go online immediately and look at her statement and her balance, she looks up at me wild-eyed. You’d think I’d just asked her to take a trip to the moon with me. Honestly, “online” must feel as remote as the moon to her. I hope she never asks me to explain the “Cloud.”
One time I thought I could convince her to use the computer to practice bridge. I showed her my app for it. That went over like a lead balloon.
Yes, my mom has been left a bit behind as technology marches on. But through all my experiences with computers, smartphones, digital appliances, social media, and this blog, I’m not always certain that’s a bad thing for her or others like her. Yes, technology can be a convenience at the same time it’s a distraction at the same time inviting so much unpleasantness into one’s life.
Think about how many times technologies frustrate us and, through its use and intrusion, even hurt us. My mom might not fully comprehend what she’s missing out on, but she’s quite content and happy. Is she really missing out on anything? Most days, I’m not so sure.