Leading People to New Mindsets & the Internet

“Zoom does not like me ….”

“My computer hates me.”

“[The committee] is afraid of the [Google] form.”

I hear it several times a week: hardware and software has– or will– come to life in people’s homes for nefarious purposes and general meanness. It is Something To Be Feared.

Some wear it like a badge of honor. Others are ashamed. Still others raise their hackles in good-faith self-defense: “OK, you are just going to have to show me what’s so great about ____________ [fill in the blank with any program or cloud-based tool.]” or “I’m just too dumb to get this.”

They don’t have issues with typical desktop programs– word processing or spreadsheet programs are familiar territory. But these programs are contained within whatever device sits on their desk or kitchen counter. They, the users, are in complete control of when the computer turns on and off, of what happens in the time between.

The fear arises when the internet is involved. Then, all bets are off.

In its early days, the internet was compared to the Wild West. For my users, the internet is worse. It’s a multidimensional anarchist jurisdiction: mysterious, unknowable, and sinister. The computer comes to life when the internet is involved. It becomes an untrustworthy vehicle of a looming force of…badness. It is Out To Get Them and, usually, they can prove it.

This is never said outright, but it is what comes across in the way the inexperienced user talks about their approaches to the cloud and its mechanisms. And no matter how many times they hear it, they cannot understand the simple mantra: You can’t break the internet.

How to Move an Organization Forward– and It’s Hard

There are specific topics and strategies I find to be successful in helping my people access new mindsets. That’s good news. But, I’ve yet to create a group form of instruction that can provide the necessary hand-holding into the new lands. It is more like a constant game of Whac-A-Mole. Different users need particular kinds of support, depending on  their task and the software they want to use. This can happen within the same day or week.

The skill instruction is the easy part. The challenge is being confronted with the negative or hostile attitudes, the defensiveness, the fear. I want them to learn, but the other stuff simply wears me down. Right now, I see this as the cost of implementation in this particular place at this particular time. I don’t think it is is a scalable approach, so I continue to think about what would be.

Topics that Build Understanding

Here are some topics that seem to set boundaries around internet-related anxieties.

  • What is the internet? A brief video helps remove the mystery.
  • What’s on a page? How do you read a page to find what you need or want? Reading a screen is not the same left-to-right process as reading a printed page. Less experienced users need to be shown that each page contains the same kinds of information, in different paces. They need to be taught to look at the page first, to see what’s there and how the page is structured. This is a form of instruction in seeing. It is the hardest transformation a print-oriented reader can make.
  • Avoid the rabbit hole: What are you trying to accomplish? Faced with so much information and so many choices, an inexperienced user– actually, any user– can become entranced with clicking and exploring, or so frustrated with all that’s in front of them that they give up. If they can stay aware of their own purposes, they build a greater sense of control over “the internet.”
  • The danger of the big blue button: A frustrated user eventually starts bouncing around the page, clicking on the largest thing they see.  At that point, some folks need to walk away for a minute. These are the people who are most likely to blame to computer. Some need to just take a breath, reclaim their original purpose, and look carefully at the web page.

Concrete Strategies & My Time Investment

I am devising different approaches to each instance of Whac-A-Mole. These are the most common so far, each carrying a different time commitment.

  • I invite the user to join me on Zoom and I do some screen sharing: 30-40 minutes
  • I make and send short screencasts of how to do a very specific task:  30 seconds to 2 minutes (Of course, I have had a person tell me, in a highly aggrieved tone, that what I sent was just a picture. Obviously, she didn’t understand that if she had hovered over the image, she would have seen the arrow indicating she click to start watching. Don’t try to argue with these people.)
  • I create a single-page Google how-to site: several hours
  • I create a step by step, illustrated document I can send or post online: at least an hour

Shortly, I’ll attend a Zoom meeting about the pastor’s retirement celebration. The celebration will take place on Zoom; it is scheduled for two hours. “Two hours?” I said to the committee chair. “Two hours on Zoom? What exactly do you plan to do that will keep people in their chairs, on a screen, for two hours?” She admitted she’d just had that same thought. I asked her to consider inviting the worship tech team to the meeting. Then I invited myself.

Never a dull moment.


Image by Manfred Steger from Pixabay

2 responses to “Leading People to New Mindsets & the Internet”

  1. “Avoid the rabbit hole” is excellent advice. The internet can be like a choose-your-own-adventure book, except there is no ending if we approach that way.

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