A few years ago, I built a blog that was to be used as a safe playground for persons who were not familiar with how the internet works. They could go there to learn computer terms and see examples of internet “things” without getting lost or intimidated by the general chaos of typical early visits to the “cloud.”
I customized one area so that when particular “students” were sent there, the content was designed to hold their attention; encourage them to participate by leaving their own comments.
At the same time, I was teaching about computers at a local community center. I used the blog as the center of attention to stage a general presentation for a crowd of as many as 14 attendees and as few as one person. At any time, participants were urged to ask that silly question that beginners are so shy about. I gently forced questions from the group, ranging from cell phones to tablets and the difference between apples and oranges. Often, the whole class would go off on a tangent caused by someone’s need to know.
Recently, I thought it would be a good idea to use the blog in another way. My uncle is the smartest man I know. I usually talk on the phone with him 2 or 3 times a week. He lives in New Jersey and at 90 years old is very active, taking the train to New Your City several times a week. His way of communicating is to send a dozen pages of politically flavored diatribe to many people every couple of days. Although I enjoy talking to him on the phone, his written stuff is too wild for me. I have a stack of his mailings in my office, unopened.
Last week, I had the (bad) idea that my uncle could use a blog to disseminate his gospel instead of sending the bulky mailings he does now. During our early morning conversation I announced the new methodology: Save paper and stamps by putting his messages “on line.”
After a lengthy argument (one that I thought won) he finally consented to give it a try.
He said to me, “…just a minute I will go ask her [his wife] to log me in.” He was out of ear shot by the time I tried to stop him. He came back and said that she was still in bed and that “he dare not interfere with anything on her precious computer.”
Oh Oh. I knew that I just did a bad thing.
I cut the conversation short, blaming the time running out on my flip phone.
I called my cousin to explain the feud I started between his parents. My first thinking was that he could buy his dad a wireless laptop so that he would not mess up my aunt’s personal computer.
He wasted no time straightening me out. They have been keeping my uncle away from the internet on purpose. Their fear was that if he figured out how to email, his first urgent message would be to President Obama. I told my cousin, “I get it . Sorry.”
Lesson offered: Do not force the internet on anyone.