The Rant

Slaves to Technology

I get that we live in a brave new world, but what I can't make peace with is how often technology fails us

Although I'm a Luddite at heart, I've pretty much made peace with the fact that my husband, daughter and I are slaves to technology. But what I can't make peace with is how often technology fails us, either by breaking down completely, or by simply not doing the common sense thing.

My family owns two flatscreen TVs, and the other night before bed, my husband and I were watching a Stephen King movie that we'd rented from Amazon on our living room TV. We decided to move to our bedroom to finish watching it there, but when we turned on the bedroom TV, the movie had gone all the way back to the beginning. We'd already watched an hour of it, it was late, we were tired (and now we were also cranky) and we didn't want to have to fast-forward through an hour of the movie, hoping we would be able to recognize the exact image where we'd left off in order to click on it and resume.

The movie was based on a Stephen King novel, after all, and a lot of the scenes looked the same — Pierce Brosnan running around a small town in Maine while being chased by ghosts. (OK, granted, fast-forwarding through a Pierce Brosnan flick is a "minor annoyance" in the grand scheme of life. But at the moment, groggy as we were, it felt major — and too reminiscent of the other times the exact same thing had happened to us.)

The other day, a setting changed on my 12-year-old daughter's iPhone, either entirely of its own volition or via poltergeist, and suddenly my iPad was receiving all her text messages, which was very annoying since she and her friends text a lot. And every time one of her friends FaceTimed her (which was, in my opinion, also too much), I received the calls.

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I went bonkers, once again not caring that this might be deemed a "minor annoyance." I called upon my husband, and together he and I went into her phone's settings. Something had gotten clicked that hadn't previously been clicked, but try as we might, we just couldn't unclick that click.

Luckily, we live only five minutes away from an Apple Genius Bar. Still, we're so busy, it wasn't until four days later that we had time to actually go, and during those four days, I received every single one of my daughter's text messages and FaceTime calls. The Genius guy listened to us, looked at my daughter's settings, and nodded. "Yup," he said, amiably, "a setting got changed." Quickly, he changed it back, proud of his knowledge and genuinely happy to help.

However, when we got home from the Genius Bar, I went to turn on my iPad (like I said, I'm a slave to technology), and a large white box appeared onscreen saying that I needed to connect to a Wi-Fi network in order to turn on the device. But there were no Wi-Fi networks listed inside the white box. The box was completely blank, other than for one word — "cancel" — written in blue. So how could I connect to a Wi-Fi network if there were none listed for me to connect to? (This, by the way, is called a rhetorical question.)

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As always (embarrassingly), I ran to my husband. He clicked on that lone word, "cancel," since there was nothing else he could do. Nothing happened. He clicked again. The big, blank white box remained. "OK, let's turn it off completely," we decided, remembering the technology mantra of "turn off and reboot." But the big white box interfered, and we couldn't turn it off.

Despite not yet having dinner, we felt compelled to immediately call Apple. We spoke to someone who cheerfully admitted that he had absolutely no idea how to help us. He put us on hold while he went to find someone who, presumably, could help us, although I was panicking by then and had my doubts.

In a fit of temper, while waiting for someone to come to the phone, my husband placed his finger back on "cancel." This time, he didn't release his finger. He just kept pressing harder and harder, for no other reason than to let off steam. Just as someone picked up the phone on Apple's end, the white box disappeared and my iPad was fine. (Minor annoyance? I think not!)

And then there's iCloud, which periodically stops recognizing my password and arbitrarily declares "invalid" something called my "keychain" so that I cannot send or receive emails. And my landline phone, which works only intermittently, having something to do with a mysterious "box" to which my phone is connected and which is located somewhere in the bowels of my 52-story Manhattan building and is "shared" by twelve of my neighbors, whose landline phones also work only intermittently. And there are many, many more such epic technology fails in my life, which occur without warning.

So, am I planning to take a break from technology? Nope, not anytime soon. In fact, I'm thinking of designing my own line of "Slave to Technology" T-shirts, unless someone has already beat me to it. I'll have to Google and find out — assuming Google is still working.

Tags: lifestyle