The point of the Community Lab, in part, is to help the public feel more comfortable using technology and to incorporate it into their lives, so they are able to enjoy all of the benefits it has to offer. On Friday, I had the privilege of helping someone I know finally set up a Facebook account.
While I was helping our new education reporter, Danny Shaw, get set up with equipment, tutorials and accounts, my own mother stopped by the Community Media Lab, 215 W. Michigan Ave., in Ypsilanti. At 70 years old, she bought a new touch-screen computer about a year ago and has been slowly getting familiar with email and the Internet. And when I say “slowly,” I mean (at a turtle’s pace) slowly. She says it has been taking a while because she is so “busy” in retirement. But I am more inclined to think technology may be intimidating to her and she has found other things she would rather be doing, not fully knowing how much the world will open up to her once she becomes familiar with the Internet and everything it has to offer.
As a test, a couple of months ago, I sent her an email saying that once she received it, she should email me back so I know she received it. Well, as I said, it has been two months and still no response. So, when she showed up to the Community Media Lab, I was happy to see her take the first step.
To get her started, I snapped her photo on my iPhone and then placed it in my DropBox so I could easily access it on my laptop. Next, I logged onto Facebook and asked her to enter the information required. Facebook asked that we enter an email address and then retype that address, and we did. Things were going smoothly at first, as I had her fill out her work history, hobbies, interests, high school and college education, and graduation years. We found friends from her high school class, suggested by Facebook, and sent friend requests. I thought we were good to go, until we started ‘liking” pages and Facebook told us we had to access my mom’s email and confirm our Facebook account first. That’s when we ran into trouble.
When I asked my mom to log into her email account and confirm for Facebook, she couldn’t remember her password. After four tries, we were locked out by Comcast. So, I initiated a live chat with a Comcast representative, but after a back and forth, we soon discovered we would have to talk to a live operator because they needed her account number. But my mom — like most people — doesn’t know her account number by heart. After a back and forth again, we learned Comcast wouldn’t reset her password unless she called from her home phone so they could verify her identity. This was especially frustrating since she had driven all the way over to the lab in downtown Ypsilanti and we wanted to get her Facebook account set up. We wondered why Comcast couldn’t simply ask her a few security questions so we could move on with our mission.
Since it appeared to be Comcast’s way or no way, my mom made the trek home and the plan was for her to call me with her new password from Comcast. When she called me, however, she was still trying to get out of contacting Comcast again and wanted me to try two or three more possible passwords. I had to explain, again, that we were locked out and she would have to make the phone call. So, she did and called me back with the password. But, it didn’t work. And that’s when she started complaining about technology and how frustrating it is and it is not as simple as people think. I had to remind her that it’s not Facebook or Comcast’s fault that she couldn’t remember her password, so let’s not blame technology.
My mom called Comcast again and they gave her another password. I suspect she wrote down the first one wrong, but she insisted that she had not. The second one, however, worked. She said the Comcast representative repeated each letter slowly and assigned a noun for each letter (B, as in bear; S as in sloth). That was a good move.
I managed to get into my mom’s email account and looked for the confirmation email from Facebook. But, alas, it was not there, among the 160 unread messages. Hmm, strange. Why would that be? I returned to the Facebook account information and looked at it closely. As I looked at the email account information, I noticed it was a few characters shorter than the email address she had given me to help her access her Comcast account. So, without the ability to verify her Facebook account, I couldn’t make any changes. And we were back to square one.
This was very frustrating. But, again, you can’t blame technology. It was human error.
All I could think to do was start from scratch and create a second Facebook profile, but this time with her correct email address so it could be confirmed. I did so, trying to recollect, as best I could, what she had entered for the first profile. I sent a “friend” request to myself and confirmed it, and uploaded a number of photos from my mother’s youth through young adulthood, midlife and to date. I was fortunate to still have these photos on my computer since last August, when I created a photo collage using BigHugeLabs for her birthday.
So, now, I am friends with two Nancy Rogers on Facebook, and her high school friends, who were sent “friend” requests, I imagine, will be very confused to get two requests from their friend. I just hope they “confirm” the right one or accept both requests and become friends with two Nancy Rogers on Facebook, as I have.
And if anyone knows how to delete that first Facebook account, which we can’t verify because of an incorrect email address, please let me know.
I am confident this little test in the Community Media Lab has helped me fine tune my trouble-shooting abilities as I try to help community members become better connected with the world around them and learn new technology.