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Feeling frustrated when technology breaks down?

November 28, 2008

by Mark Ollig

There’s no shame in it. It happens to the best of us. We are happily using our computer or (insert name here) high tech device or service when all of a sudden it stops working.

When I am on the Internet (which to me seems to be operating slower) with too many web sites opened at one time, it sometimes “locks up” – and that sinking feeling of knowing something is wrong sets in.

Even though I use the web browser’s Internet tools and delete those “temporary Internet files” and run security software – my Internet will still lock up sometimes.

This frustrating problem sometimes occurs when using either the Fire Fox browser or my default Internet Explorer.

I will even confess to my readers that I am still using three remotes for my TV, cable service and DVD/VCR player.

Sometimes I forget which remote to use. After I do find the correct remote, I need to remember which dang button to press to get the DVD working on it. After figuring out how to play the DVD I usually sit back and congratulate myself on how techno-savvy I am.

Yes, someday I will purchase a “universal” remote.

Were any of you frustrated when using your iPod for the first time?

Luckily I figured out how mine works – my frustration comes from mostly seeing the warning of having only “20 percent power remaining” (because I forgot to re-charge the iPod).

Remember back in the day when we purchased a new (analog) stereo system, cassette player or an AM-FM radio (with shortwave) and it would come with a well written paper user manual on how to operate it, and life was good?

Today, Pew Research says 48 percent of us technology users need help from others in getting new devices and services to work. Also, many of us commonly experience technical outages with our home Internet connection, computer, or cell phone.

The intuitive folks at the Pew Internet and Life Project confirms many of us become frustrated when our techno-device breaks down and we need to ask for help with it.

“These findings are a signal to the designers of information technology that they have to do a better job of making these gadgets more user-friendly to segments of the population that don’t eat and breathe technology,” said John Horrigan, Pew’s associate director for research.

Well that’s true, but I usually will make a brave attempt to resolve the problem myself first. I mean, who wants to give up the great techno fight in the first round?

Here are some interesting percentages Pew Research came up with:

• Forty-four percent of those surveyed with home Internet access say their connection failed to work for them at some time during the last year.

•Thirty-nine percent of those with computers have had problems at some time in the previous 12 months.

•Twenty-nine percent of cell phone users say they failed to work appropriately during the previous year.

• Twenty-six percent of those with Blackberries, Palm Pilots or other PDA’s (personal digital assistants) say they have encountered a problem with them at some point in the last 12 months.

• Fifteen percent of those with an iPod or MP3 player say their devices have not worked properly at some time in the prior year.

Overall, anyone who owns a techno-device has an equal chance of having it fail – which only makes sense.

The Pew Research study did a report of cell phones users and found:

• Thirty percent of 18 to 29-year-old cell phone owners say their cell phone failed to work during the course of the last year.

• Thirty-three percent of 30 to 49-year-old cell phone owners had a cell phone break at some time in the previous year.

Here is my new favorite demographic:

• Twenty-six percent of 50 to 64-year-old cell phone owners report cell phone failure at some point in the previous year.

My cell phone is still working, by the way.

Now we come to the interesting part of this Pew Research report, what do we do when the piece of technology we are using breaks?

Thirty-eight percent of us contacted “customer support” for help.

Rolling up our sleeves and fixing the problem ourselves accounted for twenty-eight percent.

How many of us have called for help from a family member or friend who is the “computer guru” to help fix our problem? 15 percent of us did, according to the Pew survey.

This next percentage surprised me some.

Pew states only 2 percent of us found help online. If my Internet is working, I will first search for help (Google) online. It will at least get me in the ballpark of what to do next.

Actually, we should not be so hard on ourselves – look at all the new technology and gadgets we needed to learn about over the course of the last fifteen years.

I mean really, shouldn’t we be patting ourselves on the back just for keeping up with all of this?

To view the complete 14 page Pew Research report: “When Technology Fails” check out http://tinyurl.com/5wpjsu.