Technological Ineptitude
By Bart Vogelzang

Of course I can’t really make a bet with you in an article like this, but the expression “I bet you think you know what I’m going to say, but you don’t,” probably applies. I’ll admit it, with a title choice like that one, everyone thinks the piece will be about people being rather dumb about new techno-gadgets, at least until they’ve had a chance to experience them. Well, you’re all wrong.

Today I discovered an email, in amongst the dozens I receive each day, requesting that I get back to the person ASAP in order to meet an entry deadline. I picked it up minutes before the deadline, got back to the person immediately, but it was too late. The problem is not that I didn’t pick up my email quickly enough, but in the very use of email for this important message. It could, and should, have been sent to me with a cell phone call. This is, in my view, a blatant example of technological ineptitude, where our dependence on newer technology has supplanted not only the older technology, but also the common sense to use it.

Several members of a club I belong to continually complain that they don’t know what is happening, despite the executive ensuring not only an up-to-date website, but also emails with details of events. The problem; these members are so giddy about using Facebook and Twitter that they don’t check their email or the club website.

Even worse ineptitude was brought to my attention when I got my most recent visit from a buddy, a regular occurrence. “I tried emailing you yesterday, and you didn’t respond. I even tried Tweeting you, and checking Facebook…hell, even Skype, but nothing. I was worried sick that something had happened, but I didn’t know what to do.” OMG, what about the phone? What, pray tell, happened to just coming over, it’s not that I live more than 3 city blocks away. What happened to a little common sense?

Why is it that we tend to get exasperated with older folk who don’t take up modern technology, yet we don’t even see that our own blindness to new techno-gadgets is actually a bigger handicap than being a technological step behind? Those who haven’t moved on, even to the point of being several steps behind, aren’t really in trouble…they still have all they need to function just fine.

Handwritten letters work just fine, as do those typed on a typewriter, even an old manual one. A rotary phone still works too, and guess what, walking across your yard, or your hallway, to your neighbor’s place is still perfectly viable. Bicycles instead of cars, hats instead of sunscreens, needles and thread instead of sewing machines, home cooked instead of fast or frozen food, water instead of electrolyte balanced sports drinks, calculators instead of laptops, pencil & paper instead of calculators. We have blinded ourselves with our own gadgets. Those too hooked on innovative technology run a severe risk if they are ignorant of the previous methods.

I read a very scary report the other day; the vast majority of people under 30 don’t know how to cook, or how to even grow some simple vegetables in soil. They are 100% dependent on a very complex infrastructure, and aren’t even aware that this complexity means they are increasingly more vulnerable. If there is a disaster, or near disaster, like the recent quake in Virginia, the first thing that happens after the shaking is that everyone starts Tweeting, texting, and cell phoning, which quickly overwhelms the systems, even if there has been no damage at all. People are stunned and stagger down the stairs to get out of buildings, everyone wondering what happened. (BTW, stairways are one of the MOST dangerous places in a quake…do NOT use them…they aren’t secure and are most susceptible to collapse, more than the buildings themselves. Check out )

People who ‘cook’ with microwaves often don’t know how to use a regular burner, and almost certainly not an open fire. Few young people seem to know how to use an old fashioned saw and the most recent craze, the electric hammer, will soon have the old fashioned hammer becoming a mystery. Screwdrivers? Where’s the ‘on’ switch?

Technological ineptitude is actually something different, isn’t it? It is the loss of basic knowledge and understanding of how things really work, in favor of simple seeming convenience. Next time you have to leave a note to a co-worker, forget about posting it to their Facebook wall, just take out your pen and put the note on their desk 10 steps away.