Your mum will always love you, and you'll always love your mum, but now that mums are comfortably geeky, maternal interactions can get weird and frustrating very quickly. How do we manage? You need a plan — especially with Mother's day coming so soon. This is it.
Your mum wants to text you. Your mum wants to look at your pictures. Your mum wants to ask you for cool new tunes. Your mum wants to hug you through a computer — but that's impossible, mum! Your mum's computer and router and everything between will be caught in a inexorable rush of faulty configuration and misunderstanding. But she's your mum. We know you're busy, but some stuff you can't shirk. Be patient and be kind to her. Here's where you start:
All mums are entitled to a lifetime of technical support, whenever they want it, forever. No exceptions. Sorry, it's just the way it is. She trucked you around for nine months and now the least you can do is help her reset the router back home. But how?
Never, ever, ever use the phone. No, never. We all know that fixing a computer headache is tricky enough when you're sitting down at the computer. But over the phone? Forget about it. The process of a mum fathoming what's happening on her screen, putting that into non-mum terms, and you then giving her mum-edible instructions in return is just too much. Think of the scene in which Samuel L Jackson is trying to direct Helen Hunt to switch the power back on in Jurassic Park, only there are a hundred more raptors, Helen Hunt still can't touch type, and Jurassic Park is a five-year old Dell.
You need to give mum some visuals. If you can't fix her router/phone/laptop/router again in person, you should swap screenshots. Ask her to email you pictures of what's happening on her screen, then annotate the fixes with a program like Skitch and send them back to her. Kaboom — no need to try explaining what an IP address is to your mother, which would have resulted in her frustrated and you clawing your hair out and weeping blood.
Oh, this is never easy. Pulling back your burqa of privacy to reveal a whole Facebook Timeline's worth of crass status updates and drunk faces to the woman who spent nearly two decades trying to teach you better.
But this actually isn't as tricky as it looks! First, accept your mum's friend request, because it's truly benign. She just wants to feel closer to you, and knows Facebook is her best shot. Give it to her. Why?
- You won't have to be nagged about sending pictures. They're all on Facebook!
- You won't be asked "what ever happened to so-and-so from high school?" as much, because she can just stalk them on your wall.
- You won't get as many endearingly annoying chain emails and superfluous links, because they can just go to the URL landfill of your wall.
Etcetera. It's a timesaver. Your profile stands in for the real you. A buffer against smothering.
And if there's anything you don't want mother to see, just make her a Facebook acquaintance and parent-proof your profile. Just because you love someone doesn't mean you can't internet blacklist them.
Q: What Computer Should I Get, Sweetie?
A: Get your mum an iPad if you can afford it, or a Kindle if you can't. They're the simplest and most elegantly designed tablets you can get. That's it. Unless she's a graphic designer, your mum doesn't need a laptop.
Q: What Phone Should I Get, Honey? What About A Camera?
A: The Lumia 900 is the phone for your mum. The giant screen is perfect for legibility, looking at pictures of you, and taking new ones of her own. And the camera is damn good, meaning snapping and sharing are consolidated, meaning less troubleshooting over the phone for you. Above all, Windows Phone is dead simple and terrifically easy on the eyes — and the lack of apps won't matter as much to a basic user.
Sorry, Mum. Voicemail Is Dead.
As smart as your mum is, she likely hasn't picked up on the fact that voicemail is obsolete, barring bill collection and long, complicated bad news. She'll leave you voicemails you're loathe to listen to, and maybe you never will. This hurts her feelings, because she's waiting for a voicemail back, which is about as likely as a letter sent via pneumatic tube.
Have a frank conversation. Mom, voicemails are gone. I know you like the sound of my voice — I miss yours too! But it's just not really something anyone does anymore.
As a compromise: Text her a lot. Text her until you break her of her 20th century voice message habit, and you'll spare her wasted time and yourself filial guilt. Show your mum that texting can maybe even be more personal than a voicemail. Send her pictures of what you're doing, what you're seeing, and where you are. Take little videos now and then. Mums love that. You're doing both of you a favour.
But above all...
Call Your Mother
No excuses. It doesn't have to be often. It doesn't have to be long. But just call your damn mum. There's no techie panacea to get you out of this one, ever. Just. Call. Your. Mum. Sometimes.
Photos: Adam Berry/George Marks/Getty
User Manual is Gizmodo's guide to etiquette. It appears as if by magic every Saturday.