You think you know what you’re doing and then…you’re stuck!

• You are struggling with Zoom and can’t connect to a scheduled meeting.

You want to install a new weather app on your smartphone, but you don’t remember how.

You have some photos to send a friend.

A critical part of using our own technology, tablet, laptop, watch, smartphone, or any other device is to know what to do when things don’t work out as you expect them to.

Ways to solve your tech question or issue

1. Sometimes you need a real person. Do you have someone you know and trust on tech matters that you can call or chat with? A family member, a friend, perhaps even someone you took a tech course from who is open to helping you with an occasional simple fix. Many libraries have “Help Desks” where they assist people with questions about computer, smartphone and tablet use. You don’t want to overstay your welcome with numerous requests every day, but sometimes you need a personal contact to cut through all the haze and point you in the right direction.

2. Do a simple search. Google your question…or use your favorite search engine. Ask a question that is short and includes the specific name of the device you are working on. Something like, “MY IPHONE 11 BATTERY DRAINS TOO FAST” or “HOW DO I DIM MY ANDROID TABLET SCREEN?” At the end of your question (or statement), write SOLVED to find instances where this very problem has been solved. Your search will give you thousands of replies, but remember that the best ones will be at the top of the first page, so focus your attention on those, and ignoring any ads at the very top. Look at the websites and the description to find the best and most reputable response to your question.

3. Sometimes you need to SEE, not just read about a solution. Instead of reading about adjusting the settings on your smartphone or how to edit a video, go to YouTube to see videos of these skills in action. You’ll have to do a search just as you did for written articles and then choose wisely from the videos that are presented for you. Try out one or two or three videos to see if they demonstrate what you want to learn and in a way that you find easy to follow.

4. Go directly to a How-To website that has a significant number of “how-to” articles or video tutorials. This may be faster and more efficient that mounting your own search as described in #2 above. Sites like TapSmart, LifeWire, and Apple tutorials have dozens of answers to specific questions you have about any aspect of your device. “Device won’t charge? Here’s what to do.” Photography Tips — 7 ways to improve your smartphone snaps.” These are useful sites and may answer your specific questions in the present as well as encourage you to read other articles that may answer questions you didn’t know you had!

5. What do others say about this same issue or problem? A specific kind of response you may find through a simple search are FORUMS—discussions with multiple responses about the topic you are interested in. Forums can be helpful but tread cautiously because they can also be a huge waste of time. Forums often contain lots of off-topic comments that won’t help answer your question. Remember to include the word “SOLVED” at the end of your search (see tip #1 above) to focus on responses that have actually answered a question rather than merely discuss a problem someone has.

6. Don’t overlook the HELP section and TECH SUPPORT of the software or app you are using. Often this can be the best source of information for solving your issue. The HELP section has taken the place of the manual that used to be bundled with software and hardware. The HELP section in an App or on a website offers several types of assistance—often video tutorials, a user’s guide, and more. A similar source of assistance for apps or software is TECH SUPPORT. On a computer, see the HELP section at the top of your toolbar or SUPPORT in an app. Often you will have different opportunities to communicate by email, phone, or chat. Helplines where you talk directly to a real person are rare, but chats take place in real time and emails allow you to think about your problem and describe it exactly.

Lesson Learned: Knowing how to answer your own questions is key for anyone using their personal technology. Don’t let a problem hold you back when you are ready to learn.

BoomerTECH Adventures (boomertechadventures.com) provides expert guidance and resources to help Boomers and older adults develop competence and confidence using their Apple devices. Boomers themselves, BoomerTECH Adventures rely on their skills as educators to create experiences that meet individual needs through videos, Zoom presentations, tech tips, and timely blog posts.

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