Your mum's router is broken, your dad's laptop is frozen, your aunt's tablet is covered in bees, and they're all looking at you, tech blog reader, to fix it before and after Christmas dinner. Not all family is equal. Here's how to prioritise.
This is all well-trod by now. You know the drill. You've been getting drilled over phone, email, and — Christ — text message, since you moved out on your own. Telstra is broken! What's the iTunes password! What are the apps! Where are the apps! When are the apps! They look to you — these helpless, blood-related figures — because you've become The One Who Knows This Stuff. Sometimes they ask you what thing to buy. And then they ask you how to fix that thing when it inevitably goes haywire.
Christmas will involve everyone who helped spawn you, other genetically-tethered figures, and all sorts of non-related hangers-on, clamouring for tech aid. You're only one person, and come on, you've got food to eat, and high school exes to make sad passes at. So let's prioritise.
Mum: Full Service
Your mum has and always will love you, wiped your gross face as a child, and put up with your horrors as a teen. For those and innumerable other reasons, she has a full, lifetime concierge tech support. An eternal pass. If she's frustrated or confused, it's your duty to help her. And besides, jerk, it's cool to be cool to your mum.
So when you walk in the door and start hearing the chorus of "the interwebs is unplugged", swallow your pride, don't condescend and help mum. Always help mum. Forever, or until you become a mum.
Dad: See Above
You were never inside him, but still: lifetime, full pass. You can make fun of him a little bit for being oblivious though. It's a double standard, but for some reason it just exists. Roll with it.
This all comes down to age.
If they're wee folk, you have a duty to help inform the next generation of geeks. Let them paw your phone — I know, they've got gravy hands, but just scrub it off later. Show off your camera — let them experiment with it, so long as they don't drop it. Threaten them with violence to make sure they don't drop it. If they seem to have a thing for music, or writing, or anything else, see if you can bring a gadget that'll be encouraging. Watch your little pals grow up to be the next tablet-loving, blog comment-trolling stars of the future.
But if your brother and/or sister are older than you, screw it, they're on their own.
Aunt and Uncle
Your aunt and uncle are probably less likely to ask for troubleshooting help so much as advice. Tell me about Android, buddy. Tell them about Android. They're family, so be kind, but don't feel obligated to postpone backyard cricket and bird-intake on their account. Unless they stood in as parental figures when you were growing up, the aunt and uncle are on a concrete second tier from the real deal, and as such, are entitled only to advisory assistance.
Example: "Oh, you know, that's a common problem with that TV — I'll email you a link to a site that should be able to totally set you straight." Odds are you probably don't have email contact with your aunt and uncle, so you're home free.
Second cousins, great uncles, etc: Sorry!
Are you kidding me? These people are barely even your family. Ground rule: if you can have sex without facing the scorn of society, they don't get free Christmas tech support.
Grandparents: Ding Ding Ding
Grandparents are your mum, multiplied. They're more helpless, gentler, and have nothing but adoration and pride when it comes to you. Odds are they don't have that many gadgets to begin with — but for those commendable iPad-toting grannies, give it your all.
They're not power users, so their gripes aren't going to be that bad. Walk them through everything. Be patient. Make sure they can see what you're doing, and that you're not doing it too fast. Maybe even write them down some quick tips with an IRL pencil, on real tree paper.
Girlfriends/Boyfriends of family members who you barely know: No
Why are you even in my house? Give me back the remote.
Old flames from when you still lived at home
If you're feeling up for it. It might seem unlikely, but helping someone fix their phone — "Well, I can try to walk you through it, but it'd easier in person..." — gives you a chance at rekindling adolescent action. Use what you're good at to give yourself one more shot at the one that got away. At the very least you'll be able to creepily go through their text inbox.
Neighbours: Quid Pro Quo
Like mowing their lawn in days of yore, don't feel compelled to go over there and start unplugging cables unless you're getting a beer out of it.
Above all, be gracious, be generous, and don't think that restarting a modem is going to excuse you from helping wash dishes.
Pictures: Hulton Archive, Jack Atley/Getty
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