Happy Tech-Support-sgiving

I’m home in Atlanta for Thanksgiving, which always inspires plenty of writing. It’s usually of an intensely personal nature, unless I’m doing NaNoWriMo, which, suffice it to say this year, I am not. I found an IRL angle this time, though.

Lots of tech-inclined people I know, myself included, like to joke/gripe that Thanksgiving is the holiday of unpaid family tech support. Relatives always seem to save their computer and phone problems for us to fix when we come home, and it never takes long to come up. But at least in my house, I think the nature of this exchange is changing.

Personal computers have gotten good enough to smooth out the learning curve, even for my less inclined relatives. The support requests in my family are no longer on the level of “My laptop won’t turn on” or “How do I get to my email?” They’re more sophisticated, but that’s because the relatives understand better. This year it’s more like “How do I add you to this photo album for the synagogue building project?” or “Can I add the family Facebook group to my home screen?” The fam isn’t asking for fixes anymore so much as optimizations.

And I’m finding myself much more ready and willing to help. The teaching is becoming sweet instead of frustrating. I’ve only been home for about 18 hours, but I think I understand the shift already.

These in-person visits are getting pretty rare as my brother and I grow up, so the needs that come up when we’re home are more urgent. But our trips home are also an opportunity for all of us to optimize the tools we use to maintain our relationships at a distance for the rest of the year. That’s still much easier to do in person than over the Internet. So it makes sense to get the communication tune-ups out of the way on the first day. Then we can visit calmly the rest of the time, knowing it’ll be that much easier to stay in touch once we leave.

Now that the adoption curve is finally smoothing out, I think people are starting to zoom in on the positive parts of personal computing. Anecdotal tech blog posts do not suffice as demographic research, but I like the feeling of this hunch.