There’s an old urban legend in Tech Support circles about the support agent who tells his hapless caller to box up their machine and take it back to the store because “they’re too stupid to use a computer.” It was probably dreamed up by some frustrated support agent walking hopelessly clueless users through the same support call fifty times a day, day after day.
Now, I understand that you may see the quasi-apologetic phrase that you keep using as an excuse may be the naked truth. But no matter how true you perceive the following statement to be, however, still does NOT make it a valid excuse. You MUST stop using these words, strung together in this order:
The word “illiterate” doesn’t even really apply. Illiterate implies that you do not yet understand how computers work, yet have a willingness to learn. You, on the other hand, seem to have no desire whatsoever to learn even the basic functions of a computer or how it works. Ignorance of the law is never an excuse for ignoring it, and it is my sincere belief is that you would never, EVER be able to use this kind of excuse at ANY other job.
Say you’re a dock worker. Your foreman assigns you a forklift. If you suddenly forgot which key fits in the ignition, and when the foreman asked you why aren’t getting your job done, used the excuse “I’m forklift illiterate;” tell me: how long do you think you’d last at that job? Or, if you’re a barista, and every single day you accidentally drop a big glass carafe of coffee on the floor, and when your boss asks why you can’t seem to hang onto the expensive carafes full of expensive coffee you keep shattering, you say “I’m carafe illiterate.” What are the odds of you surviving as a barista for longer than it takes to, say, grow a moustache?
The phrase “I’m computer-illiterate,” to you, seems to mean: ” I don’t work in computers, so I don’t have to know a single thing about them, regardless of the fact that my job requires me to use a company PC.”
Therefore, to me, it’s far more accurate for you to say: “I’m computer ignorant.”
Because that’s what you’re really telling me; you’re really telling me “I have no interest at all in how a required tool of my job works, and I don’t care to learn anything about it, and if I can’t do my job due to this lack of knowledge, I’ll simply blame the tool I refuse to learn about. Or you, because you didn’t fix my ‘broken’ PC.”
Well, here’s the thing: if you cannot do your job with the tools required by that job, I have one word that describes the quality of your work:
That’s right. You are incompetent. Hard cheese to swallow? Tough. Either make a real effort to learn come basic computer skills or contemplate a career change to a line of work that doesn’t require them (and good luck with that).
Now, before all the pitchforks and torches come out, keep in mind: I understand that computers break. If computers worked properly, all the time, then I would be unemployed. Servers misbehave, software gets corrupted, or some bug or other throws a cryptic error message on the screen. Maybe someone one of my peers pushes out a network change without realizing it will cripple the systems of 4 or 5 people in the company. Or maybe a drive quits or a network adapter just suddenly refuses to work. There are a great many IT things that happen that you do not have direct (or any) control over.
I fix the things that break. I keep your computers running. Yes, this means I know more about computers than your average Joe. I do not expect you to possess detailed knowledge of TCP/IP works, how to replace a dead hard drive, or which registry key to tweak to make the proprietary billing system client start working again. That’s my job.
I am talking to you people who call me 5 times a day because you forgot your network password–again–and when I ask you for your username, you go “My what?–again–and I reset your password and you complain that the password can’t be the one you were using last week–again–and I have to explain the company’s password policies to you–AGAIN–but really, none of it matters because I know you’re going to lose your post-it note in fifteen minutes and then call me back. AGAIN.
I am talking to you people who work with Microsoft Word all day long, but when I ask you to copy and paste the text in a document, you have no idea what I’m talking about. You have worked in this job for six years, but the idea of copying and pasting is still alien to you. When I try to explain it, using mouse actions (because god forbid you try to learn keyboard shortcuts like CTRL + C and CTRL + V), I have to then explain the difference between right and left clicking a mouse. And then you will continue to right-click everything until I figure out what you’re doing and tell you to stop, because if I don’t tell you to stop, you’ll keep right-clicking everything.
Nothing in these situations is broken, other than your willingness to open your mind and learn.
And you’re on notice: more and more companies nowadays are identifying people with sub-par computer skills as a liability and turning them loose. Do you think that IT support is FREE? No way. Helpdesks are expensive. Your boss pays out the nose for IT support, and sees your unwillingness to learn how to effectively use the main tool with which you must be productive as a source of lost revenue. While we IT folks are hand-holding you for an hour through a simple procedure you ought to know how to do on your own, or rebuilding your virus-infested machine because you ignored the company policy on not surfing porn at work, you are not only not doing your job, but further, we can’t devote time to making the network better for the rest of the user community. Typical cost for commercial-grade computer support averages $100 an hour, not counting the value of your lost productivity.
There is absolutely no good reason why, in the second decade of the 21st century, when computers have permeated every facet of our lives, you refuse to learn to do anything more challenging with a PC other than check your mail and surf the web. That is completely inexcusable. Being “computer-illiterate,” as you naively profess, is analogous today with being illiterate-illiterate; e.g. you will not land (or keep) a decent job without SOME level of IT savvy. With all the forums, YouTube videos, and other vast resources on the web, there is simply no excuse anymore for not knowing the first thing about PCs or how to do basic PC maintenance. Because right now, all you’re doing is clogging up my queue with your sadly-intentional blundering cluelessness.
Learn what a username is. Learn what “application” means. Stop assuming that calling IT means you can turn off your brain. Make an effort to understand the contraption you’ve been given to use by, and for, your company.
And for God’s sake, stop saying “I’m computer illiterate.” Because you sound ridiculous, and you should cringe hard with utter embarrassment every time you say it.
Seriously: Get savvy or log off.