I really do try not to be useless.
I am great believer in the old adage that change is good and that being able to adapt to change is a character trait that I am certain that I possess. However, sometimes I yearn for the good old days when all aspects of my life did not require a master’s degree in computing. Don’t get me wrong, I love my computer. And my iPhone. I would be completely lost without either. It’s just that as a woman hurtling towards her first half century, I cannot help thinking that I have not been adequately prepared by society for the digital world that I now live in. Certain aspects of technology are, frankly, baffling.
Let me give you an example. I have been incredibly late to the whole social media thing. In my defence, up until last summer I was a history teacher. All you British teachers out there will understand that social media use is frowned upon by the Department of Education, in case the students try to contact you and you are actually some depraved pervert who sat through four years of higher education just to lead them astray. The professional guidelines were so strict that it just seemed easier not to have it. But then I got my Harlequin contract and suddenly needed it. Twitter has me confused. I really struggle with the correct Twitter etiquette. What should I retweet? Do I have to follow someone just because they are following me? What exactly should I say on the damn thing? And don’t get me started on the hashtags! I have lost count of how many abbreviations I have had to google just to know what people are saying to me or about me. After six months, I still think most of the stuff that fills my rapidly expanding Twitter feed is nonsense- yet every day I scroll through it. Just in case…
To be fair, I quite like some aspects of Facebook. It is a good place to keep up to date with people and share good news or funny stories or to get answers to questions. However, I cannot stand all of the emotional rubbish people insist on sharing with the world. Perhaps that is because I am British, and therefore fundamentally uncomfortable with any sort of emotion, but I do not want to read those attention-seeking messages from people that lament the way they are treated by someone and feel the overwhelming desire to share that with the world. If you are happy, please feel free to tell me about it, if you are “so pissed off right now” I really do not want to know. I am not heartless or cruel, and by all means if we are close and you have a genuine problem that you want to discuss, then everyone who knows me will tell you that I will be there for you- at the end of the phone or in person! I just don’t do touchy-feely, in full view of the world, over the internet. Nor do I have any desire to say Amen to any messages about anything. Period. But now I am ranting like an old curmudgeon…
This week my technology has been a particularly vexing. To cut a long story short, I needed to create a Yahoo! Account and couldn’t. No matter how many times I, or my incredibly tech-savvy sixteen-year-old son, tried it simply would not let me. Sensibly, I turned to the help section of their website and found it to be frustratingly unhelpful. It kept advising me to engage in ‘live chat’ with one of their advisors. However, to instigate a ‘live chat’ I had to sign in to Yahoo! And I could not do that BECAUSE I COULDN’T MAKE A YAHOO ACCOUNT.
In desperation, I googled the telephone number for Yahoo customer services. What a twit! I was so trusting, I actually believed that the man from the Indian call centre was representing Yahoo. I even allowed him to guide me to a website that allowed him to take control of my computer… Yes, I am well aware of the fact that I am a complete idiot. That fact dawned on me about twenty seconds after he started going through all of my files and I was powerless to stop him.
I have no idea what he made of the love scene I was editing at the time.
“Do you work for Yahoo?” I asked a little desperately.
“We are a company that helps with issues…”
At that point I pulled my computer plug out of the wall and hung up. Later, after I had suspended my internet banking, ran my antivirus scans repeatedly and read every scam article on the internet, I found out that Yahoo would never ask to take control of my computer and that I had inadvertently rung a conman who was up to no good.
I am not going to lie. That sorry episode knocked my confidence but it was my new iPhone that completely destroyed it. I might have already mentioned it, but I am getting on a bit now. I have been short-sighted since I was seventeen but now my eyes have decided that I need to hold any reading matter at least two feet from my face in order to see it. Deciding that the screen on my iPhone 5 was too small, I upgraded. All by myself. On the internet. To an iPhone 6 plus. It arrived the next day and the scant instructions in the box cheerfully informed me that all I had to do was turn on this magnificent piece of technology and the phone would guide me through the process of setting it up. All of the content, my invaluable calendar included, would all magically transfer to the new phone and five minutes later I would be able to blithely carry on with my life.
Four hours later and I was on the cusp of fetching a pick-axe from the garage and smashing the bloody thing to smithereens. In desperation, I took both phones to the Apple shop. There, a spotty geek took pity on me. He pressed a couple of buttons, frowned, pressed two more and, hey presto! It was fixed. I doubt it took him even twenty seconds.
I made him turn off auto-correct for me. That really winds me up. I want to say one thing, and auto-correct wants to say another. I sent a text to my daughter that I thought said “Are you home safe?” What it actually said was “Are you home sage?” Why on earth would anyone want to say that? My kids found that hilarious and I now receive just one word via text whenever they arrive at their destination. SAGE.
Navigating the treacherous waters of the Emoji is another aspect of the twenty-first century that leaves me bewildered. I have no idea what half of them mean but feel that I should use them because everybody else does. I wish Rosetta Stone would offer a course on this weird new language. The texts from my kids are peppered with them and in a vain attempt to appear more hip, one day I decided to send one back to my daughter, who had just sent me a laughing face with tears spilling out of its eyes. But as my eyes are gone, I sent her this instead...
A crispy battered prawn.
Her response was WTF.
I had to Google WTF in order to understand her response, which took at least two minutes, during which time my daughter bombarded me with the manic laughing/crying yellow Emoji whilst simultaneously sharing my stupidity with all of the contacts on her phone. So now the word ‘sage’ is always followed by a crispy prawn to remind me that I am a technological dinosaur and the family joke.
So now, you will be relieved to hear, my new iPhone is up and running and that the bigger screen is so much better for my decrepit old eyes. I have reinstated telephone banking and I finally have a Yahoo account. Despite my own incompetence, my computer escaped a catastrophic security breach by the skin of its teeth so I can finally breathe a sigh of relief.
All of my personal information remains SAGE.
Virginia Heath's debut novel That Despicable Rogue is out in May 2016 and her second Her Enemy at the Altar follows in August. Both are available to pre-order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble