Technology Tips for the Rest of Us: Part 1

Picture this: You just want to watch Downton Abbey but you can’t remember the dang Hulu password. You know you can call your child/nephew/the younger person in your life to help you sort it out but you feel bad about bothering them for the umpteenth time. First, they helped you untag yourself from a Facebook photo, then they calmly explained what a “hashtag” is, and when you asked about Snapchat they told you not to worry about it. They’ve been patient so far but you don’t want to test any limits.

How are you going to get yourself out of this frustrating predicament? It’s happened to us all. Even younger people get frustrated with newer technology from time to time. Seriously, if you feel aggravated trying to unsubscribe from a mailing list, just watch anyone try to set up a Smart TV. You will hear swears you didn’t know existed.

We here at Positivities know what it’s like to get flustered by newfangled doo-dads, so we decided to put together a nifty set of tips to help you on your first foray into the whimsical world of advanced technology and beyond.

1. Google Is Your Friend

You probably think the hypothetical younger person in your life is just preternaturally gifted when it comes to smartphones, social media, and handling the wi-fi router. Sure, younger generations might have a head start on this stuff because they generally prioritize novelty over accessibility, but nobody is naturally good at anything. Not even Mozart.

Mozart was drilled from a very young age by a father who was obsessed with seeing his son succeed. Mozart’s early compositions, often touted as evidence of his incredible precocity and talent, were certainly not great symphonies and were very likely edited and revised by his more experienced father. He didn’t compose the beautiful work we know him for now until he was a young adult, by which time he’d already put in thousands upon thousands of hours of controlled practice.

We’re not trying to put down Mozart. We want only to illustrate that the accepted notion of “genius” or “inherent talent” is seriously flawed. So when you get frustrated because your computer isn’t doing what you want it to do, or you can’t figure something out, don’t start thinking “I’ll just never be good at this stuff.” You can get good at anything if you just apply yourself.  So do what younger people do – Google it!

In the address bar, you can type and it’ll take you to the landing page. In the search bar further down on the page, type any query or problem you experience. The really cool thing about googling for help is that whatever problem you are experiencing has almost certainly been experienced by someone else as long as the said problem isn’t hyper-specific. Generally, you can find a solution to a problem within minutes just by googling.

Next time you find yourself at a technology loss, Google first! If you can’t find a solution, then there’s no harm in asking for help.

2. Write Your Passwords Down

As we put more and more of our lives online, internet safety has become increasingly important. Minimum password requirements have also become more complex. This might seem like an annoyance, but it’s done in the interest of your security. The more complex your password is, the harder it is for a hacker to “brute-force” your account.

Best practices for passwords follow these guidelines:

  • Don’t use easily available personal info like a birthday or name
  • Don’t use any adjacent keyboard combinations – ex: 12345, qwerty, asdfzxc
  • The longer your password is, the harder it is to guess
  • For passwords that are easily remembered, try acronyms with capitalization and numbers – ex: My favorite book is the Da Vinci Code 1010! becomes “MfbitDVC1010!”
  • Try to use different passwords for different types of accounts.

Lastly, you should always be writing these passwords down on physical pieces of paper. It seems antithetical to keeping your accounts safe, but it’s much more likely that someone will get into your account because your passwords were too weak as opposed to some scenario in which they break into your house, see your passwords and then hack your Amazon account. You’ll be way less likely to forget your passwords if you write them down, making it more unlikely you’ll get locked out of any given account.

You’ll never have to bug anyone for the Netflix account password ever again! What a relief!

3. Beware of Phishing Schemes

We don’t want you to be afraid of the internet, but we do want you to understand the risks that come with uninformed use. Specifically, “Phishing” has become prevalent in the last few years.

Phishing is a cyber attack that uses disguised email as a weapon. The goal is to trick the email recipient into believing that the message is something they want or need — a request from their bank, for instance, or a note from someone in their company — and to click a link or download an attachment. What really distinguishes phishing is the form the message takes: the attackers masquerade as a trusted entity of some kind, often a real or plausibly real person, or a company the victim might do business with.

One of the key internet skills that is seriously under-taught is what is safe to click. When you get an email, if you don’t recognize the sender, don’t open the email. With some email accounts, it’s safe enough to at least open the email, but know that if it’s asking for any kind of personal information – passwords, birthdays, etc – it is almost definitely fraudulent. The thing that’s so insidious about phishing attacks is that they do their best to resemble the trusted entity – whether it be the bank, Amazon, etc. Don’t fall for it! If it looks sketchy, do not click it.