This article originally appeared on VICE Alps
I got a call from my mother yesterday – she said she got a text with my mobile phone bill. I told her that didn't make sense. But she insisted and asked me if I couldn't "just check on Google." I told her that made even less sense. "But Walter tweeted at you, didn't you see?" she asked.
"You mean WhatsApp," I said. "And no."
"But can't you, what's it called when you're on Skype, when you…"
My mum and the internet have been in an intense love-hate relationship for a while now. She didn't grow up in a digital bubble and her notion of Twitter probably resembles a modern version of Teletext.
The only people who really suffer from older people's inability to understand technology are the people who have to translate it for them. Usually it's innocent children like me. I don't know how many times I've had to explain that something happens in real time or that WhatsApp can send voice messages.
Luckily, my mother doesn't have a smartphone. I think both of us are happy about that. The mere idea of my mother using emojis makes the hair on my neck stand up. She has a similar reaction to the thought of using a touchscreen. Most of the WhatsApp-ing mums drown their kids in an avalanche of laughing-crying-faces, hearts and thumbs ups – I'm happy that I don't have to block my mum.
But the world of emojis is pretty easy to understand. This thing we call the internet is a little bit more complex: Have you ever tried explaining what memes, trolls or GIFs are to your mother or grandmother? Because trying to would be absolutely futile. I just texted my mum asking her if she knows what a hashtag is. She answered that it must have something to do with smoking. Now I'm sat here wondering if that isn't an amazing idea. #thanksmum
But there are still parents who are totally good at the internet, or they pretend to be at least. Some of my co-workers' mums have an eight-page Word document full of reaction images they need for Facebook commenting saved on their computers,.
I also know people who regularly FaceTime with their grandmas. I think that's amazing. These people must be so balanced and relaxed. My mother's lack of computer knowledge has led me to a few nervous breakdowns. I don't know what it is exactly, but there's something about one of my parental units facing a supposedly unsolvable technical problem that just makes my blood boil.
One time my mum asked me if the internet had any pictures of a concert that she once attended. I was tired, hungover, irritable and not at all prepared to interrupt my Amy Schumer binge. I didn't want to get angry with my mum again, so I panicked.
I uttered the first thing that popped into my head, which I thought would save me from a half-hour slide show: "On a Sunday mum…? Really?" And all this in a voice that emphasised my fake outrage. I think I sounded truly indignant. I had to let her know how ridiculous the thought of wanting to use the internet on a Sunday was. "You think it's on seven days a week? Everything would overheat, how would that work?" It was so bad, it had to work. Since my mum is the best person in the world, she excused herself for asking. She just politely asked that I let her know when the internet is back online. You have to love her. I'm obviously a horrible person.
When I was still in school, I volunteered as a tutor at a computer school because I thought I should start paying it forward. I wanted to cry, when I asked a student named Edeltraud to open the browser and she just hopelessly stared at the keyboard. This girl had never used a computer in her life and we had to spend an afternoon going through the whole thing together. She fastidiously wrote down every step and stubbornly repeated everything I said without really knowing what she was doing. In the end, Edeltraud was able to send emails and I felt like a nervous wreck.
Dads and grandfathers aren't any better, by the way. Like, they google "Youtube" to get to YouTube. Or when they delete every single character of a URL individually instead of highlighting the whole thing and deleting it at once. Or when they mix up the search field with their status update on Facebook – if they ever even get that far.
There are so many treasured sentences: For instance, "Do you have Google on your computer?"; "Which desktop?"; "I think my Wi-Five is broken"; and "Doesn't a bigger monitor use more internet?" And then there's the ultimate classic: "Can he see me? Right now? Really? Hello! Where do I have to talk? Hey! How are you!?"
The whole thing is tragic. If you're asking yourself how you should explain the internet to you (grand)parents – just leave it. That is unless you want the following comment under your profile picture: "So cute sweetie, love mum."