who you gonna call?
The solution to our tech frustrations may be as old-school as a helpline.
Technology may be advancing at lightning speed, but the slow wi-fi and unpredictable devices we put up with every day make us feel like we’re living in the Dark Ages – and trigger the kind of rage usually reserved for protest rallies and boxing classes. So, Laura Collins asks, can a good old-fashioned helpline be the answer to our first-world problems? “Last year, 16 per cent of people surveyed in a US study confessed to crying over technology”
There are many things to feel anger over these days, from the big stuff, such as government policy, to the small stuff, like who misses out on a Bachelor rose. In an era where the average person’s attention span is eight seconds – down from 12 in 2000 and now officially shorter than a goldfish’s, according to Microsoft – it’s not surprising the slightest inconvenience or roadblock in our daily lives manages to tick us off instantly. But there’s one thing that most of us cite as being both our desert-island luxury and the bane of our existence: technology (in a 2016 report, 40 per cent of people said wi-fi was a daily essential and 75 per cent said it improved their quality of life).
How many times in the past month have you smacked, sworn at, thrown or threatened to throw a piece of personal tech you rely on as much as you despise? Today alone, I’ve verbally abused Google Maps, my phone, two separate wi-fi connections and a petrol station’s EFTPOS machine. I couldn’t have got to where I was going without any of those things – unless I had a ’97 Gregory’s street directory and some actual common sense – but relying on them almost brought me to tears.
And I’m not the only one. Last year, 16 per cent of people surveyed in a US study confessed to crying over some form of technology problem. I’m not ashamed to admit how often I cry over a 404 website error message. Yes, my reaction is usually hinting at some deeper emotional problem that has nothing to do with the device, but considering women spend about 12 hours more each week on their phones than they do with their partners, I refuse to feel ashamed for directing my emotional outbursts at technology.
By 2020, it’s expected that there will be around 30 billion connected products in the world – an equally fantastic and terrifying figure. It may be easier than ever to video chat with our cousins in Malta, but when that connection drops out and their faces freeze on-screen, you’ve got to feel sorry for the poor sod whose job it is to take your call and troubleshoot your modem (have you tried turning it off and on?). Maybe it’s time we all just stop pretending we love technology and admit that it’s the fucking worst. Finland holds a Mobile Phone Throwing World Championship every year – no wonder Nordic people are so happy (I’m holding out for an Apple TV remote throwing contest). Then there’s the guy in Colorado who, at the pinnacle of his tech-related frustration, shot his malfunctioning computer eight times.
A new survey by Semcon reported that the majority of respondents found technology frustrating. The Swedish tech company says it’s because many of the devices and services populating the market are more focused on “look at this impressive but completely useless thing I can do” rather than “let me help you”. (Which explains why that fancy gadget that’s supposed to keep champagne fizzy has never once been out of the box, because what’s really easier – opening the gadget’s box or drinking the whole bottle in one night?)
All we really can hope is that Semcon’s bright idea of creating a Tech Frustration Helpline for people who are victims of technology catches on. Dial +46 10-1782210 and a usability expert will do their best to avert your crisis. They’ll also provide some non-judgemental “mmms” and “uh-huhs” if you just want to vent/shout/sob down the line.