“I’m not a…” Syndrome

There’s a phrase that I’ve come to hate as I’ve ministered within the Church.  It’s a phrase that, more than any other, tells me, “Don’t try to teach me anything – I’m perfectly happy where I am, thanks.”

The phrase is, “I’m not much of a techie.”

As I’ve become known as “the computer guy” in ABCNJ I hear a variation of that phrase just about every time I’m introduced to someone.  “Oh, you’re the computer guy?  I’m afraid I’m not much of a techie.”  Some people feel an overwhelming need to repeat the phrase over and over and over again.  As if, should the phrase not be repeated, I might forget.

Typically, what people mean when the utter the dreaded, “I’m not a techie” is, “I don’t know what buttons to push, so don’t bother telling me any of the value this stuff might have for me.”  It is, essentially, a pre-emptive strike against the possibility of change and growth.  Why do I know this?  Because I do it for other things – any time I say, “I’m not much of a…” I create the same effect.  Bad me.

Look, I honestly don’t want everyone to be a “techie” (especially since it seems that only non-“techies” ever use that nomenclature).  Everyone does not need to be a geek because it’s not everyone’s calling.  I don’t expect people to understand how to manipulate a database, or change permissions from a command line, or write a shell script, or even have a clue what a regex is.  To me, geek-tasks like that are what people are afraid of – the “magic” which happens below the levels they are able to access.  Fear of that “magic,” however, causes them to settle in several levels above where they are actually able to access (lest the “magic” do them some harm if they came to close).  It’s easier to keep away from such dangerous stuff than it is to go as deep as you are able.

So I hear the phrase, “I’m not a techie,” and know that in the future I may get a call from them to fix a pdf in which everything has been aligned by spaces or to clean up a document where all the text suddenly moved over because they accidentally hit the right-justify button and were too frightened to click (touch?) it again.  People are very appreciative of my ability to manipulate the arcane forces of technology on their behalf, but in the end hearing that phrase just makes me feel lonely.

Here’s the thing.  To communicate in this world people need, at the very least, a basic level of technological-savvy.   This does not mean that people need to know what button to push in any given situation.  It does mean, however, they learn to press buttons on their computers and not be utterly terrified while doing it.  We can’t afford the panic that the “I’m not a techie” attitude grants us permission to have.  Why?  First, because it’s completely silly for people who are normally competent and capable of thought to lose their heads when a text message comes to their phone.  Second, because that panic shouts to the world in which we live, “I have no idea how to communicate with you!”  Third, because the tools we have at our disposal require wisdom to use well – and panic and wisdom to not compliment each other. These three reasons, when combined, tell us that technological panic doesn’t just make our witness irrelevant to people, it makes it non-existent.

So, if you suffer from “I’m not a techie” syndrome, I make you this promise.  I know how easy it is to succumb to it’s effect, and I can honestly say I’ll do my very best to avoid the “I’m not a…” syndrome myself. I just ask for a similar effort from you.

One Comment

  1. Eric Stuyvesant says:

    It’s the whole give the man a fish/teach a man to fish thing, for me. I’ve honestly about gotten to the point that if people aren’t willing to learn how *not* to do the space-aligned PDF thing, then they can deal with the consequences themselves. No matter how painful it is for me to watch them endlessly fiddling instead of being productive. We all started out there. But some of us cared enough to start picking up better ways of doing things. I don’t think you can make people care about something that they don’t want to. It’s like the Internet. Some people want to have nothing to do with it. Until something they care about is something available there and nowhere else. Then they are motivated enough to be teachable. I’m not a fan of attempting to be a teacher of people who are intentionally unteachable.

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