This is the companion article to How To Teach Your InstaGrandma. Make sure you read them both!
First off, I still think you should hire me. Second, here's what happens when you decide to do it yourself.
When I was about 19-years-old, I had a client who didn't have the vocabulary to explain what was wrong, didn't have the skills to fix it himself, didn't want me looking at the screen, and didn't want me touching the keyboard. Needless to say, I did not solve any problems that day. I did, however, get a crash course in a lot of the challenges you'll face if you choose to teach your relatives yourself, instead of hiring me to do it.
1. The dynamic changes. Your parents are used to being the ones guiding you, but now you're the one guiding them. If your relative has a good attitude, then it's really just one person helping out another, both of whom happen to share blood ties. Sometimes, though, your relative may make things weird. The main reason for this weirdness is my next point.
2. Loss of independence. Your parents or grandparents may not be used to being old, feeble, and reliant on you, and while they may not personally resent you, it may feel like they do. At the least, they may resent the situation they are currently in.
As a second point, you may not think about their independence, but it should be on your radar. It may be faster for you in the short term to just do something for your mom or dad, but in the long run, it's better if they can at least do the basics on their own. If you do EVERYTHING, they don't learn, and then you have to keep doing everything, and that's time taken away from other things in your life.
3. You learn a foreign language. Really, you just learn to communicate with someone who doesn't have the same vocabulary as you. If they use the wrong words, but the idea they want to communicate is completely correct, just go along with it. It's easier than stopping to correct them at every avenue. You can (and should) still use the correct verbiage while you respond, though.
4. They try to be cool. You can't blame them, because you've also tried to be cool (regardless of whether or not that has worked out for you). Why would your 80+ year-old grandparent need to be cool at this point of their life? Because they are currently out of their element. The dynamic is changing, they are dependent on you at the moment, and they don't have the vocabulary at the moment, and feel stupid enough. In some cases, you're really there more for bonding time than help with Instagram. Just be nice and let them feel cool.
On a similar note, when they try to be cool, some things just don't translate well. Some jokes that were hilarious 20 years ago, or even just 5 years ago, are in a gray area today. The same can be said about certain compliments. Whether or not you acknowledge these comments, let alone correct them, is a judgement call.
5. Unbelievable Scams. Occasionally, you'll hear a story that someone's paranoid neighbor heard from his weird friend. Snopes and Google usually disprove several rumors, and some rumors are just too outlandish for Snopes to even bother with. Common sense, combined with safety practices and alertness, can prevent a lot of bad things from happening.
6. Dark Purposes. I have been asked to hack into computers belonging to other people, certain companies, and the government. First: That's above my personal pay grade. Second: Why? What purpose does hacking into someone's computer serve, long term or short term?
I have also been asked to set up a Yelp account, YouTube Account, etc. so these people can leave nasty reviews. Once again: Why? What do you even get out of that?
7. Personal Drama. If you're not actually related to the person you're helping, you may end up hearing about their personal family drama. This isn't a bad thing: you're building rapport and you're learning how to help these people more directly. Plus: drama can be awesome when you don't have to deal with it directly.
Most of the time, it's just that people inevitably talk about their lives at some point, and you may spend a lot of time with this person. Occasionally, you may become a surrogate child if you aren't related to these people. Sometimes, these people don't want to change their dynamic with their children at all, so you end up hearing the things that might change the dynamic between them and their kids.
8. Some minor inconvenience will lead to a meltdown. Most commonly, there's some sort of server error, and the obvious solution is to wait it out, but that won't be acceptable to your grandparents. If you stay calm, the meltdowns are shorter.
9. Some problem will be too much. It can be embarrassing when your parent expects you to be able to fix something, and there's nothing you can do. If that happens, I still suggest you give me a shot. Self promotion aside, the good thing about this is that you're confirming to your parents or grandparents that they aren't stupid or crazy, and they actually appreciate it. Plus, now when you call the big guns, you can all smugly say, "We already tried 5 things, including turning it on and off again," when you call customer service.
10. Watching people deteriorate in front of you if you're there long enough. It's depressing, but it happens enough: the person you're teaching is actually dying in front of you. All you can do is be comforting.
11. Senior women are just more receptive than senior men. That's why this is Become An InstaGrandma. Senior men tend to argue that they don't need social media or technology, and I'm not going to fight them. This is especially common in senior men who want to be seen as independent, competent, cool, etc. In this case, I'm usually most successful when I'm letting them fail in front of me, and letting them ask for my help at their own pace.
Thanks for reading, and I'll see you on the internet!
Step One: Hire Me. Obviously, I would prefer you take this route, but I understand that some of you want to at least try to do it yourself first. If that's the case, I still think you should tell your folks about my articles where I address some of the questions I have received most often.
Step Two: Reserve Some Time. Most likely, it'll be an hour. Most beginners get the most out of a 30 minute session, regardless of the discipline they are studying, because these new skills take a lot of focus. As they develop their skills and confidence, expanding to 45 minutes or an hour makes a lot of sense. An hour is a great because it's long enough for most tasks to be explained, demonstrated, and practiced with good focus. Two hours can be useful if it's a more advanced user, and if that person has a lot of energy or a lot of specifics they need to work on. After that point, though, you tend to see diminishing returns. One reason workshops tend to be longer is that there is less individual focus, and there is usually an opportunity for a break.
Now, WHEN should you reserve time? The best time is when the student has the energy to focus. The second best is whatever is convenient for both of your schedules. Most people are most awake from 9:00am-11:00am, but do what you can when you can.
Step Three: Decide What They Need To Learn. True story: computers became much easier for my mom when she discovered Amazon.com. That gave her some transferable skills for Facebook. These are both important her life, because she likes shopping for specific things, and she enjoys her friends and wants to stay connected with them. She does not, however, need to create an audience on Instagram by utilizing the algorithm and choosing the most effective hashtags. Your parents, grandparents, and even your children are pretty much the same: pick one or two things they look forward to doing, and use those one or two things to cultivate their interest.
Step Four: Reminders. First, remind them that they are only going to get better if they practice. Remind them that there are opportunities online that may not exist in the real world, like buying tickets to shows. Remind them that you don't know where every little thing is–you just know where to look. Remind them that it's a muscle that develops over time. Remind them that they don't even really need a Twitter account, but if they at least know what Twitter is, they can make a conscious decision to enjoy it or avoid it, instead of being forced to stay off due to their lack of ability. Remind them that like many other skills, it comes down to making time and doing a lot of repetition.
Step Five: Empathy. Remember that if this is a new skill, there's no reason for them to be good yet. You didn't come out of the womb knowing how to read; you went to school for 12+ years. It's the same thing, so be patient. If they are tired, just finish up whatever you can, and give them a break, even if you still have 20 minutes of the hour you reserved for them. When they are frustrated that a site changed their layout yet again, validate that opinion. Basically, just show them you're on their side.
Step Six: Encouragement. A lot of your folks are already beating themselves up for not getting it, for not starting 10 years ago, etc. You don't have to add on to that. Second: if they only see using the computer as an opportunity for failure, and if there is no reward, they are just going to avoid it. Be encouraging, even if you're saying things like, "It's not much, but you didn't know how to do that an hour ago!" The more you do to make it pleasant, the more they'll want to do it.
Step Seven: Hire Me. Just thought I'd give that another shot.
Thanks for reading, and I'll see you on the internet!
Thank you for this topic, Sandy! If you would like to request a topic for the next article, please email me your idea!
Now, no one wants to have their personal information compromised in any way. Even if you don't have anything worth stealing, it's still good to be aware of potential scams out there. So, how do you protect yourself while also enjoying all the internet has to offer?
Before doing anything, the most important thing to ask yourself before responding to any email, phone, or even social media solicitation is the following question:
Is there a reason for this person to be contacting you?
If you don't actually know this person, and you never signed up for this service, and there's no reason for these people to have your information, it's pretty safe to ignore it (unless you have a lot of time to burn, like this guy). If it's really important, they'll try to talk to you again later.
Now, let's pretend your memory isn't what it used to be, or that you have so much going on it's just hard to keep track of what's real and what's not. It is possible that whoever is emailing or calling you is a real person with a genuine matter that needs to be addressed, so you should ask the following questions:
If you don't know them, do they know you?
If they refer to you as "Valued customer," or something else that's generic, it's safe to assume they have no connection to you. If you go by several names, and they call you the wrong name, that is also a clear red flag. My parents had a friend, named Jay, who always knew to be suspicious of anyone who called him on the phone and asked for "Wilbur." Wilbur was his legal name on all of his records, but since he never introduced himself as Wilbur, it was pretty easy for him to keep track. I realize that's not an option for most of us who don't have pseudonyms.
Would this specific person be calling you for this specific reason?
If Amazon calls you to say you've over-drafted $700 on your last purchase, it can sound scary, but ask yourself: Would Amazon call you about your overdraft? They aren't your bank, they aren't a credit bureau, they aren't debt collectors, and they have no reason to know anything about your finances beyond whether or not the card you used for a transaction can actually be used for that transaction. If someone from a company contacts you about a matter they don't normally deal with, it's a red flag.
If this is your second, third, or final warning, where and when was your first warning?
If these people really do have a reason to communicate with you, they would have at least given you a first warning. Do you even know what you're being warned about? If you do a quick check and can't find a first warning in either your email or snail mail, this probably isn't a real threat.
Have they chosen a new method of communication?
If this company always calls, but they chose to email you this time, it could be suspicious if you weren't expecting that email. If they normally email you and they choose to call you, however, there's less of a chance of something unsavory happening.
Have you done a search via Google or Snopes?
If you type in a company's name into Google and the autocomplete feature offers words like, "scam," it's a safe bet to assume it's a scam. If the word doesn't pop up, but you type in "[Company Name] scam," and you do get some results, they are worth reading. Snopes, the Federal Trade Commission, and the Better Business Bureau are also worth looking at.
This is pretty comprehensive, but just to make sure I have my basis covered, let's look at specific modes of communication.
Does their language seem off to you?
If they are using incorrect grammar, it can be a giveaway. I personally enjoy when the grammar is correct, but they use words a native English speaker wouldn't string together, like, "Buy our chicken! It is generous and isolated."
Do the graphics seem off to you?
If they are supposed to have a logo, but they don't, it's a red flag. If they have a logo, but it's really pixelated, or the proportions are just off, it's a red flag. If the entire message is a picture of some text, it's a red flag.
Can you unsubscribe?
This is a tough one. Some scams won't let you unsubscribe from their emails, and other companies will just subscribe you to a different list if you unsubscribe from that first list.
Does the sender's email address seem off?
Check the sender's email address. Sometimes, the email will be something obviously fake like, email@example.com. There's no way that thing came from Facebook, Chase, or anything you actually use. Scammers often use either a subtle differences to try to trick you, like the difference between firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Since the real IRS is a government website, the real IRS would only use .gov in their email. If you know what the real url of a website ends with (.com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov, etc.), and this email ends with ANYTHING ELSE, it's a red flag.
What information do they want from you?
Legitimate companies don't ask for sensitive information via email, so never email your social security number, your mother's maiden name, your bank account and routing numbers, etc.
Did they send you an unsolicited document?
It's pretty suspicious, like leaving a bag unattended at the airport. Be safe and assume it's a virus.
Does it include links?
An email with links to click on is actually pretty common, but if you are suspicious of an email: don't click on any links. If they are pretending to be a legitimate company and you really want to check your account to make sure it's safe, type the correct url of the company into your web browser and log into your account. If both the suspicious email and the legitimate website say the same thing, then it was a legitimate email! If they say different things, then you know that the email was false, and you can promptly tell someone at the company that there's a scam to be aware of.
A lot of what falls under a suspicious email also falls under a suspicious Facebook account, Instagram account, etc. In addition to suspicious links, documents, and language, here are some other red flags:
Is it a 20-something woman who is basically wearing no clothes?
She's probably not a real person, especially if she has the other red flags on this list.
How many friends/followers does this person have?
Less than 50 friends can be suspicious, and having less than 50 followers while following 1000+ people is even more suspicious. Many people have a follower to following ratio between 1:1 and 1:2, and many people are trying to grow a fan base so that they have more followers than people they are actively following. For those of you want actual numbers, the average Facebook user has 338 Facebook friends, and the Dunbar Number is 150.
Does this account have any history?
They say that history repeats itself, which is why you should look at a profile's timeline. If there are several posts advocating for a product, a service, a specific website, etc., you can probably bet that you'll be seeing more of the same. Obviously, we all post at different rates, ranging from, "posting exactly once, just because," to posting several times per day. If this person has very few posts, and exactly zero of those posts look like a regular human living a normal life, that's a huge red flag.
Any one of these things I've listed is suspicious, but several of them together are impossible to legitimately explain. Still, there's one question left.
Phone Calls and Text Messaging
Did they leave a message?
If it wasn't important enough to leave a message, don't worry about it. Ever.
Did you pick up anyway?
Ask if there's a phone number you can call back later. If not, that's your hint. If there is, you can do a Google search for that phone number and see if anything pops up.
Another option is to answer the phone by saying, "Hello, I don't need a contractor." Most people just opt to screen their calls, though.
Can you get a word in edgewise?
If it's a recording that says anything besides when your next appointment is, be alert.
How Do You Protect Yourself?
The good news is that a large part of protecting yourself from email phishing and other online scams is that common sense takes care of so many problems. Pretty much:
Thanks for reading, and I'll see you on the internet!