I am a self-taught “Consumer Electronic Specialist” guilty of being a gadget “early adopter” and am happy to share what I have learned!
2020 is Like a Watermark on our Everyday
I love my gadgets - I can communicate, create and have a plethora of answers at my fingertips. However, living through the year 2020 reminds me that much of what I love about technology needs to be tempered with a healthy dose of caution and some good ole’ common sense.
Whatever we thought reality was a mere year ago, is now viewed through an altered lens with a giant question mark stamped right on top. It is as if we are living with a watermark attached to our “everyday” and we are all searching for the key to remove it.
A watermark is a digital “mark“ super-imposed on top of an original digital photo or file making them more difficult to view and copy and can only be removed by the watermark’s owner.
Believe in Yourself with a Little Help From Search Engines
Sometimes no search on “Google, Bing or Duck Duck Go” returns the desired problem solving result you need. Good solutions to a problem are seldom obvious at first, Learn to depend on your own perseverance to get past roadblocks that may feel unsurmountable although it may require multiple attempts.
You may have to completely rethink how you solve problems because you never know when there might be another “2020”!
LESSON #1 - One Electronic Device is Never Enough
As consumer electronics emerged into our lives like a “tease“ of all things possible I recognized that I needed more than one device with similar capabilities. Not to be redundant - but to be prepared.
Imagine this scenario.
You expect an important call or your child is waiting to be picked up from school. Your cell phone suddenly stops working, or you have forgotten it somewhere. Your options may be few and some may even be dangerous; especially during a Pandemic.
Before asking a stranger to borrow their cell phone in a sketchy situation consider my theory as an option.
- Carry a second mobile phone. This is an easy and often inexpensive solution. A one year bundle of minutes and a Tracfone purchased from an online shopping channel often costs less than $100 -$200 Other prepaid options are available but the minutes typically expire after a month or so and you purchase the phone separately.
- Carry a tablet with cellular capabilities or a mobile hotspot. I prefer my iPad Mini with cellular capabilities. I own an Amazon Fire Tablet as well. I enjoy it for the entertainment value it offers as well as the unique functions it offers - such as easy to use “parental controls.”. Although neither one makes typical phone calls you can make a Messenger call with either tablet or you can make a FaceTime call on an iPad. Emails and texts are also options on some tablets.
- Your personal preference will depend on the cost, ease of use and the features you require.
- if you must connect with “free” Wi-Fi please remember the dangers posed by hackers. You can protect yourself by installing a VPN or you can use the private or incognito setting on your browser.
Suggestion: A good set of ear buds or a good car speaker is a must have,
Lesson #2 - Always Scrutinize Auto-Pay Payments
Although I am a fan of auto-pay payments I have cancelled mine this year. Yes, they free up my time and my bills get paid on time but this year has taught me the dark side of convenience.
I have been burned before by auto-pay because I did not pay close attention to my statements.. You cannot assume that other people will do their job correctly so you have to follow up yourself.
When you accept a better/special offer to save money, you allow changes to be made to the original contract. Before accepting, just remember how apprehensive you feel before you push ths yes key on your computer after it says ”do you want to allow this update to make changes to your hard-drive“? Understand that sometimes you are accepting a completely new contract.
Suggestion: Follow-up within the 3 or so days allowed to cancel any new contract. Verify that the charges and terms are what you agreed to, and that the original contract and it’s charges have been cancelled.
Unscrupulous third party scammers such as some website designers, credit card processors, and those selling special services are allowed to add their charges on your billing. Be very weary when talking to a stranger on the phone - simply saying the word “Yes” during one of their cold calls could constitute an agreement.
My credit card used for auto-pay was close to expiring.
- My wireless phone, internet and TV accounts had to be updated.
- I was unable to log into my separate accounts such as wireless, internet and TV.
- I had to call a different number for each account and when I did not remember account and PIN numbers it was a nightmare.
Once the charges on my credit card got my attention, I noticed a reoccurring unexplained charge that went on month after month.
I reported the fraudulent charges to my credit card provider. However, my legitimate charges from the same company caused confusion with the fraud department. All of my accounts from the company in question was cancelled and my credit card was cancelled as well. My account number was changed and the saga continued.
I began receiving cut-off notices for the affected accounts. After multiple calls to the fraud department the situation has been nearly resolved.
COVID-19 has brought these broken systems to the surface. This experience has changed how Iy a second about auto-pay.
- Covid-19 is the catalyst that set the “work-from-home“ trend in motion.
- Many of the employees working from home have low grade equipment to work with. Calls are fuzzy and often dropped.
- Many of the employees do not have access and authority to resolved complicated issues.
- A customer can spend hours getting connected to an employee that does have access and authority to resolve complicated issues.
- A customer has no options except to make another phone call and hope for the best.
I detest paper statements - but living in a COVID-19 world makes them necessary. I cancelled all auto-pay on all of my accounts. I am appalled that multi million dollar companies cannot keep my billing straight, while telling me how easy it is for me to take care of what I need online.
Security is very important - but things are out of proportion when it stops the customer from tracking their own financial security from a run away system that does not protect the customer at all.
Lesson #3 - COVID-19 Advances Technology While Setting Us Back.
Those needing to work but can’t because their jobs require hands on service, are at a huge disadvantage during this COVID-19 Pandemic.
Technology has improved enough to send some people home to work, but not enough to find equitable ways to keep everyone working. The digital divide is much more than the ability to have internet in your home. It has now divided people that are allowed to make a living from those considered to be “non-essential.
Large companies are making millions providing needed technology to at-home workers and school children. There are shortages of the needed parts to assemble new computers and cell phones. The ripple effect can be seen across the world.
I believe that current technology has made it too easy not to find answers to our problems. A pandemic hits - people can work from home. That is the easy way out. Within a year - 2020 - we should have improved PPE for everyone. where are the inventors?
There must be a way that this virus can be detected.
- Why is there no lights that cause the virus to be visible on surfaces.
- Why doesn’t more people know about UVC lamps and wands?
- Why isn’t the spray used by fire departments not made available to businesses and homes?
- If wearing a mask is necessary and you want them to be worn correctly, give us a way to stop our glasses from fogging up.
- Do we need to keep our eyes covered by a shield, do we need to cover our hair? Do we need to change clothes in the garage before entering the house?
- While you are at it, get the instructions straight about what we really need to do.
The human race divide is larger now than the digital divide. Technology needs to be used to bring us back together - not to separate us more.
I have learned many lessons during 2020, but I have learned at least 3 that I consider to be the keys needed to unlock the watermarks placed upon my everyday existence. Lessons do not have to be new, profound or complicated to have long lasting value, they just have to be practiced - even when they feel old and outdated.
Apple iPad Mini (Wi-Fi + Cellular, 256GB) - Space Gray (Latest Model)
Fire HD 8 tablet, 8” HD display, 32GB, designed for portable entertainment, Black
Disclosure: I may earn income from this article in the form of clicks or sale of a product
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.