Monday, July 15, 2013

The Computer Trap

It has changed the way people deal with other people in a not so nice way.

One of the problems of spending so much time on a computer is that you end up applying some of the learned approaches to interactions with real people in a face-to-face situation or in online chat situations.

When you want something from a computer you type in something, hit the enter key and it responds—maybe with what you were looking for and maybe not. And you can just try again with a little adjustment and you may get something different. If you keep doing it the same way it just gives you the same answer back. It won’t get mad or snap back at you.

Some people’s conception of how that works can be a little distorted as I remember in my early years of computer use in the business world. I was given the task of doing a lot of Lotus 123 spread sheet stuff (IBM just finally retired the Lotus brand in May, 2013) as part of a useful need in our national accounts program. We were wooing two large players in the retail business that we referred to as key accounts. The whole program was driven by our National Sales Manager with some direction from the Key Account Manager who acted more as team rah rah guy for the Key Account reps.

I happened to be on a short vacation and upon my return one of the Key Account reps asked me for one of the updates to a particular sheet that he wanted to review or adjust based on some recent information he had gleaned through communication with one of the new prospective customers. Seems the Key Account manager tried to get it out of my computer but couldn't understand why when he finally figured out how to turn it on that he didn't get anything back when he just wildly started hitting keys at random. This guy was no dummy but he had no clue when it came to computers. They were very new in the 1980’s. Some brainiac VP even suggested that we put them all in one room so everyone could share their use. He had no clue either. (We actually got them both as new customers with over $3 million dollars in annual sales).

So we can see that strange people skills can be found in many places. Let’s look at what today’s youth is doing since they have been spending so much time on this electronic device. I was chatting with my cashier at the local grocery store and she was lamenting on how her kids never finish their homework, they don’t read and they jump from one thing to another never finishing it (aka multitasking). Despite her best efforts to adjust that pattern, they just continue on that way and the frustration was evident in her tone and body language.

In another situation, I have had several chats in an online games where it seems us older guys naturally gravitate to talking to each other even though we don’t know each other’s ages until we ask. Seems WW and rhino are both within 10 years of my age bracket—well beyond high school age, more like waaaaaaay beyond.

I think it was rhino who coined the phrase the OCD generation. (both of them will correct me if that is wrong. They are constantly telling me where to go)

Obsessive–compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder characterized by intrusive thoughts that produce uneasiness, apprehension, fear, or worry; by repetitive behaviors aimed at reducing the associated anxiety; or by a combination of such obsessions and compulsions. (in the Wikipedia description of the disorder)

What he was reacting to is the “dumb” questions that pop up in the game we are playing that is in early beta stage so it doesn't have much in game help. They are questions that are basically resolved if you just poke around a little bit and find the menu icon that relates to that issue. Instead these young players get frustrated really quickly and start asking these questions when it could be as simple as pressing the right mouse button instead of the left.

It is only a game but I worry for a lot of children today and the society they will be in when they get out there in the working world assuming they will have decent jobs and they all aren't farmed out by the VP’s that I mentioned above. If they can’t find their way out of the proverbial brown paper bag, then how are we going to get the next generation of iThings, cure cancer and make a better place to live?

It isn't all that bad because you do get some young ones in that same Help chat window that get it and ask about the tutorials and the readme files associated with the game and they admit that they have a lot of learning to do and set out to do just that instead of whacking away at their keyboard in frustration.

That young guy is going to do something special in his life because despite all the attempts by the liberal forces in education and the attachment parenting approaches some kids find out that there is a better way. His game name is Horsefly and I can see him buzzing around.  Sometimes he annoys you but he is always on a mission and he’s happy.

And some of the young ones are just plain outright rude because there is no real way to punish bad behaviour on the other end of a computer chat session. If that little guy tried that in the schoolyard, someone would kick the b’Jesus out of him back in my day. Today he is protected by the liberals in the system and both his parents who are out chasing the next bimmer or divorced so proper guidance isn't always immediately available.

Kids need to really play more nowadays instead of being trapped to their computers like so many of those episodes of the series LOST. Nothing bad really happened when they didn't punch in the code every so many minutes. It just sent them somewhere else. True they were dead but they were in transition to another place where they would ultimately find happiness.

Just watch a bunch of kids in the schoolyard or playground actually playing and look at the joy in their faces and actions and now compare it to your little Johnny whacking away at his keyboard or Xbox controller. Which one is having more fun and learning important stuff about life?

I think we all know the answer. Get your kids to go outside and mix with the other kids. That’s what real games are about. A few knicks and scrapes are all just part of growing up and just teach you by example.

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