As a big promoter and heavy user of technology — especially in ways that improve our lives — I also know how frustrating it can be when it breaks down or doesn’t work as intended.
If you stop and pay attention to how many times you get frustrated with technology in the course of even a single day, you may be amazed.
I recently came across an article in which the writer argued that “time-saving and energy-saving” fixtures in modern bathrooms (ex. automatic, motion-activated soap dispensers, faucets, and paper towel dispensers) often break down or don’t work as intended. This results in wasted energy and an incredible amount of anger and frustration for the people trying to use them.
The author recounted experiencing such a failure and then obtaining paper towels from an old-fashioned dispenser with a hand crank. He noticed how simple and satisfying it was to use such a low-tech device to dry his hands.
Today, I’ll offer three suggestions for dealing with the frustration of working with modern technology when it breaks down.
Expect Failure or Breakdown
This is simple to understand but hard to do in practice.
Feelings such as frustration and resentment come from having expectations and experiencing those expectations not being met. In the case of technology, our culture strongly promotes the idea that technology is the solution to all problems and it will always work and make life better. So it’s understandable that we would adopt this belief and then feel particularly frustrated when some technology we are using doesn’t work.
If you apply some mindfulness to your experience and pay attention to the ways in which technology works or fails to work, you may be able to chip away at that idea and instead see the reality — that technology only works some of the time. You may then feel less frustrated or at least surprised when a particular device fails you.
Resetting your expectations this way may not only help improve how you feel but also allow you to better engage in the next suggestion.
Actively Plan for Technological Failure
I recently took a train to New York and had high hopes of getting some focused work done on the trip. When I got on the train and started working on my laptop, my Outlook soon crashed. After several reboots, I experienced a dreaded blue screen of death in Windows.
Although I was very frustrated by this and lost some valuable time, I had also followed an old habit of mine: bringing materials on paper that I had printed out and put in my laptop bag before the trip.
This is an example of actively planning for technological failure.
If my laptop had worked as intended, I would have indeed wasted some time and paper by making those printouts. But I’ve learned from experience that technology often fails and this approach can help me make better use of my time and feel less despondent when my technology breaks down.
I suggest giving some serious thought to how you could continue to do what you want to do when your technology doesn’t work. This might be as simple as jotting down the address and directions to a place you’re going to on paper in case your GPS doesn’t work. Or maybe you could bring a small calculator with you if you need to crunch numbers somewhere and your computer stops working.
Practice Doing Things Without Technology Some of the Time
This is to ensure that you will be ready to proceed when technology breaks down. A good example of this involves GPS. If you use a GPS all the time, your navigating skills without one may atrophy. As a result, if your GPS or phone breaks down, you may find yourself unable to get where you need to be because you’ve lost that ability.
To protect yourself against this, you need to actively practice navigating, which may include memorizing common routes that you travel or driving with an old-fashioned paper map in the seat next to you.
Following this third suggestion could yield other positive side effects. For instance, if you practice writing longhand on paper in case your laptop breaks down, you may find that this has its own benefits over typing. I find that it is a better way for me to get my initial high-level ideas out of my head. As a result, I write on paper even when my technology hasn’t failed. These “backups” and non-technological alternatives may actually prove more effective than the technology-driven tools you currently use — at least in some situations.
Pay attention to how you feel while you’re using these non-technological alternatives and how well the low-tech methods work in case you want to use them even when your high-tech options are available.
When considering your alternatives, keep in mind that low-tech alternatives (ex. a handheld calculator rather than a computer or smartphone) are also worth a look. Our options go beyond all or nothing and we often have the opportunity to mix and match as we see fit.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful to broaden your options when it comes to technological failures.