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September 20, 2014 / 25 Elul, 5774
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Technology: Important But Not Indispensable

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Dear Dr. Yael:

I am part of the “over 50” crowd and am having a really hard time with computers, cell phones and the rest of the modern-day technology. I work as a well-paid secretary, but am stuck in the same position with little room for advancement due to my poor computer skills. All the while I see all of my younger colleagues, with less experience, getting raises because they are more technologically advanced. Despite taking courses to improve in this area, I am finding it hard to succeed.

Even my 10-year-old grandchild seems able to master these technological challenges! My children have cell phones and text when the need arises, but texting is very difficult for me. If I press the wrong button while writing a text, I have to start all over again. Some of my friends share my frustration, while others seem to be coping beautifully. I know that work is beginning to suffer, as there are always new programs to learn.

Can you offer any suggestions about how to cope with this issue? Baruch Hashem, I have a great marriage and my husband – who shares my difficulty with technology – is a professional and a real talmid chacham. I am also blessed to have wonderful relationships with my married children, their spouses and my grandchildren.

Please help me overcome my technological challenges.

Frustrated

Dear Frustrated:

I truly empathize with your problem, as I too am part of the “over 50” crowd and my husband and I have great difficulty with modern technology. I don’t know if misery loves company, but my young clients love to tease me about my technological shortcomings. One of my young clients, a modern technology whiz, said to me the other day, “Dr. Respler, you are a great therapist but unfortunately you are technologically impaired.” I laughed, but knew he was right.

By the way, there is no diagnosis for those of us in the “over 50” group that are technologically impaired. The DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) IV does not consider this malady a diagnosis. (lol as they say!)

On the bright side, your great marriage and wonderful relationship with your children, in-law children and grandchildren are accomplishments you should be celebrating and are worth much more than being well-versed in how to use a specific computer program.

Please remember that we were not brought up with computers. When I went to college there were only a few computer courses offered and no one had a computer at home. They were just too expensive. Since I majored in psychology, I did not even take a computer course. While I sometimes regret this, since it would have helped me in many ways, I needed to focus on required material – like those relating to science and therapy.

Reviewing my education, I have to say that in high school I was on the “academic track,” and never took bookkeeping. But I was able to convince the high school administrators to let me take typing. Trust me – bookkeeping would have been much more practical for me than algebra, trigonometry or all the math and science courses that I took to prepare for the regents exams. Even though I did well on those tests, thanks to my friends’ tutoring, I don’t know to this day what the useful value is of these subject matters. To me cooking, bookkeeping, typing and sewing would have been more helpful. Unlike Satmar yeshivas, the yeshiva high school I attended did not offer cooking and sewing. The Satmar curriculum on this issue was on the right track. After all, doesn’t cooking and sewing help any young woman in the real world – even a career-oriented woman?

Another one of my tech-savvy clients said, “Dr. Respler, don’t call yourself technologically impaired; I don’t want you to see yourself as impaired. Say that you are technologically challenged.” I guess that sounds better than impaired.

Back to your situation: I do not mean to not give you the proper empathy, but please remember that you seem to be very successful in the important areas of life – namely in your family and other relationships.

There is a downside to all the technological advances society has made: people no longer need to talk to each other. Today one can e-mail and text, having virtually no human contact with others. Here’s an example, albeit an uncommon one: Some couples that I treat fight through texting. And they will sometimes sit near each other at dinner and, instead of talking, they text their friends. This does not make for great marital communication.

On the flip side, I read a study that said that texting is a way to avoid marital fights. The study reported that couples will text each other regarding where and when to pick up the kids, thus avoiding any potential dispute about a possible negative tone in the way the correspondence transpired. (This is so because there is nothing vocal in a text. One can also insert a smiley face on the text, which will often bring cheer to the text’s recipient.)

So please stop being so hard on yourself. As you try to improve your technological skills through study and course taking, maybe you can teach your younger colleagues a thing or two about how to build relationships – a seeming strength of yours. Hatzlachah!

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