who you gonna call?

ELLE (Australia) - - Contents -

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.

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