5 min read
12 Apr

Embarrassing Moments, The Power of Learning, and the 3 “Be-Awares”

In my previous blog, I discussed some issues we aged 50+ women face regarding social media. I’ve hopefully convinced you of the benefits of ascending The Tech Savviness Ladder. 

Although facing our inadequacies along this climb may be potentially intimidating, I can guarantee from personal experience that nothing is more inhibiting than complete social media and tech ignorance. 

Today, let’s discuss how I realised this by experiencing embarrassing and avoidable tech mistakes, the power of online learning, and my 3 “Be Aware” tips. It’s a longer blog than usual so please grab a drink, get comfy, and enjoy... 

Embarrassing, personal mistakes  

I have suffered so many horrendously embarrassing experiences relating to social media and tech disasters (some while serving as an Advisor in Fintech- the irony is not lost on me) that I realised I had to stop being inhibited, intimidated and/or disinterested and to start learning. 

What follows is a list highlighting a few of the countless personal embarrassments I experienced whilst using tech applications I was unfamiliar with. Some memories are cringeworthy so may I suggest to please skip this part if you are delicate. You may wish to now put down your refreshments if you are drinking or nibbling whilst reading, as you may choke from laughing at me. OK, readers, please be kind. If you’re now ready, here goes:

 - I was on an online course feeding through Facebook when I desperately had to use the loo.  I carried my iPad with me so I wouldn’t miss anything. Clever I thought accomplishing two things at once. No worries: I checked that my video was off. Well, it was …. BUT MY AUDIO WASN’T! The lesson here is obvious. 

- Less exposing but also personally poignant was the instance when I fumbled along a Zoom chat whilst my camera was embarrassingly positioned.  For no less than 20 solid minutes, my colleagues examined my magnified, wobbling, not hairless, double chin as I rambled on, waxing lyrically and completely oblivious.  Someone finally felt pity and kindly interrupted me to suggest I adjust the camera’s focus to show my whole face.  I now make sure to check my video at the beginning of every call! 

- I also cringe when I recall serving on a virtual advisory round table where I was too inexperienced to manage the tech and as a result regularly kept getting booted off. How can I advise if I am absent? Attendees had paid to hear my boss’ and my advice on their business issues. I would listen to their presentations and then just mysteriously disappear- every 2 minutes! Booted out into a wasteland for the ignorant. I was missing everything. FOMO! What to do? I had no idea. I was alone. I contemplated throwing my PC out the window. Embarrassing. Pathetic. Unprofessional. We had a packed schedule with 8 attendees rotating through the round table every 30 minutes and I wasn’t able to contribute ONE THING! The frustration and inadequacy I felt as I could hear the attendees, but they couldn’t see or hear me. I could hear my boss’ thinly veiled annoyance and the attendees’ confusion… but the worst was that I had some really good advice to give them, and I couldn’t! All because I wasn’t experienced enough to manage a relatively simple virtual social media system. 

- Another horrifically embarrassing tech disaster occurred when I was on a course with 292 others and my camera decided to act independently. It constantly zoomed in so tightly on my face and then out so widely and then in again.  In and out, in and out every 4 seconds… all on its own volition. Like some uncontrollable, nightmarish theme park ride. One second the viewer was treated to a horrendous view of the broken capillaries on my nose. Then, suddenly, the lens would widen to reveal the messy kitchen behind my desk and its impressive display of empty wine bottles consumed during the pandemic which line the tops of the kitchen cupboards. Nothing was private. How nauseating for the viewer and a little too personal for me! Yet I could not control this. I had no idea what to do. I know now the key is to not get flustered and realise there’s an answer we just need to find it. Easier said than done. I was so dizzy watching my picture in screen that I had to lay on the floor. After the call, I googled the problem and realised I just needed to tick a box to not roam when I turned on my camera. 

The horror and embarrassment haunt me still. They are refreshed now after sharing these very personal disasters with you, Dear Reader. Yet, positivity reigns that these nightmares are outweighed by my complete conviction that we all will benefit immeasurably from being brave and starting the climb of The Tech Savviness Ladder. I realise in hindsight the disastrous mistake I made was not learning enough to avoid this in the first place. I am now adamant I will not be left behind. It’s time to understand and learn more. Let’s embrace learning more about social media as we can no longer hide from or be intimidated by it.  Let’s be wary, but willing. Remember: Few people can truly tackle tech. Perseverance and experience is what it takes to be comfortable it. So, let’s get that experience. 

I would also like to relay another important lesson I have learned: The Tech Savviness Ladder is like the game Snakes and Ladders, up AND down. It is unlike the education we had as children where one progresses linearly. With social media there is a constant unpredictability and change amplified as new products regularly enter the market. We just need to become comfortable with that. 

OK, let’s start. But where do we begin? 

Start climbing this Ladder by asking our network for help. Friends, family (often the younger generation) are a good place to begin. I have found younger neighbours are also quite willing to teach social media and cell phone basics and are even more keen if funds or a meal is on offer.  I also strongly suggest researching online courses. There are many great ones out there and I am a firm believer in their benefits. There must always be room for self-improvement. 

Online Learning: A Must-Do in The Next Half. 

One of the greatest benefits of the Lockdown is the increased availability of excellent online courses.  Shortly the Lockdown in the UK will be lifted, and courses may soon be available in person once again. However, I will continue to pursue self-improvement courses online wherever possible as I have found the ease of learning from my home immeasurably advantageous. Either way you wish, please start learning! 

During the pandemic, I completed numerous courses for self-improvement which I found enriching as they provided me further training and experience which are vital when becoming more comfortable with “the new”. I enjoyed two courses on social media which taught me the ins and outs of FaceBook (which my adult aged children no longer use), LinkedIn, TikTok, Pinterest, Snapchat and Instagram. I even dropped in a sentence to my son that I now know Canva and he almost choked on his dinner as he was so surprised that I am “current”!   I didn’t have the courage to admit to him that I have no idea about TikTok yet as we haven’t yet gotten that far in the course… 

I also finished an interesting course on identifying individuals’ personal and professional values (which may sound like a bunch of hooey, but I really recommend it) and another one on continuing my Coaching skills. I am still immersed in a helpful class on Blog Development and List Building.  Away from social media, I have also tried an online painting course (I’m thinking about graduating from my paint by numbers art, but am not there yet), a cooking class and a daily HIIT exercise course. The latter I put on the same excruciating and intimidating- yet necessary- ladder as social media. 

Be aware of pitfalls

The benefits of taking researched and recommended online courses far outweigh the cons. Yes, there’s the time commitment, expense and increased frustration level as you learn new things. But your life will be more fully enriched. It’s really worth it, I promise.

 Yet, you must do your homework. There are 3 “be awares” you must recognise and try to avoid: the less value-added courses, the less value-added instructors, and the addictive habits.

Be aware of the less value-added courses

Whilst I have found some online courses beneficial, I must warn you though that some are less value-added. The key is to research them, pursue courses that are personally recommended or ones that have “no obligation” trial periods where the fee is returned.  Then nothing is lost but your time if you don’t find enjoyment or self-improvement. Remember: Nothing ventured, nothing gained! 

I have profited much from online courses: I made some wonderful new friends, and also learned a lot, some of which had nothing to do with course content but was purely peripherally tech related. For example, I had no idea how to download from the chat box, keep the download open on screen whilst I simultaneously entered a chat room on Zoom. Panic welled in my chest each time the instructor said, “Download and answer the questions in the break out room”. What?! How? Gulp. No one else seem to have had any issues. I was alone again in my tech-incompetence wasteland. Back down some rungs of the Ladder. Grr! 

But I persevered and figured it out eventually. Just like I figured out how to post my first video on Facebook - mistakenly first sent to everyone publicly (a “don’t-do”) and then to the Group I had intended (a “do”).  Yesterday, I actually helped a colleague on an online course who couldn’t see the gallery on Zoom. I talked this flustered and embarrassed lady through it. I had gained enough experience to teach! 

Be aware of less value-added instructors 

It’s been made clear to me that many in our age demographic group feel intimidated and often lessened during some self-improvement courses. They feel their ability level is too low, or their contributions too outdated. That makes me feel irate. Shame on the Instructor for diminishing those that want to improve! Shame on the teachers lack of EQ and inability to recognise the value of experience! They don’t deserve their leadership role and should be reprimanded and reminded of their purpose in being educators. 

But, I will add also shame on the student who does not speak up! If you do not feel a course has been beneficial, have the strength to say so either during it or at least in the review. A poor review may save another from facing the same disappointment. Please fear not and speak up! Others deserve to benefit from your experience. You deserve to learn. Let’s remember that you owe this to yourself so you can start climbing your Ladder. 

Be aware of addictive habits 

It’s important we climb this Tech Savviness Ladder being completely cognisant of the addictive habits of social media. It’s designed that way. We must manage both the amount of time we use it, as well as the information we both provide to and take from it.

 For those that can see the Social Dilemma on Netflix, I highly recommend it. Social media users must understand we are most probably being manipulated and our data is the asset these tech companies gather. 

However, I still feel there are more advantages to using social media than disadvantages. It provides us a means for a fuller, more engaged life. Let’s be brave and start climbing, but with open and wary eyes. We must manage this power. We must instil social media control mechanisms for ourselves and our loved ones. 

I know of a restaurant in Sydney that offers 10% off the bill for tables that leave all their cell phones locked in mobile phone cage placed on the table for the duration of the meal. What a great idea! That concept must be emulated and applauded. Meals with others should be tech free whilst the art of conversation is continued. Let’s start that at home. Remember from my previous post, values start at home! 

Be brave. Be proud of yourself. Be aware. Have a sense of humour and Let’s Get Climbing!

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