Are you a good tech citizen?

Millions lack basic technology knowhow. It’s a sleeping issue, but it’s a huge problem for me, and I suspect it is for many others. So what has me on this rant? I’m at my annual family reunion. In two days, I have been asked by separate family members…

Family Member 1: can I send an email from my phone on his behalf, and when I get the response, can I handwrite it out so that he can read it (I know! Gasp!);

Family Member 2: can I show him how to use Facebook; 

Family Member 3: can I show her how to use Twitter; 

Family Member 4: can I use my cameraphone to take an impromptu photo of the kids playing; and

Family Member 5: can I pull up some MapQuest directions for her, and handwrite them out even though she has GPS in her car. (I was asked this question while in the middle of writing about Family Member 4! Gasp again!)

While I couldn’t get annoyed at the request to take a pic of the kids, the rest of them bothered the heck out of me. I strongly dislike wasting time. In fact, that’s why I love technology – it’s supposed to make our lives more convenient – so how did technology become a vehicle for my family to waste my time. How did this happen?

I’ll tell you how. I was taking my technology knowledge for granted. Once we learn how to do something, it’s impossible to remember what it was like to not know how to do it. The Heath brothers, who wrote Made to Stick, appropriately dubbed this phenomenon The Curse of Knowledge. Blaming these adults would be like blaming a four year old for not using her verbs correctly when she’s never been walked through the conjugation process. While there are many commercials on TV with parents texting, we can’t assume that’s an accurate representation of reality.

Technology may be everywhere, but I assure you that insecurities and intimidation around technology are even more pervasive. So please, technologists, remember to be a good technology citizen. It’s our social responsibility to evangelize even the most basic of technological capabilities. Reach out and show someone close to you how to put a photo on Facebook, follow conversations on Twitter, print reverse directions from MapQuest, or buy a Smartphone. You know what they say… teach a man to fish…