Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, November 8, 2013

Genealogical Technological Apprehension (GTA)

When I was lot younger, I used to read the Reader's Digest each month. I began to notice that every month it featured a new disease, thus giving the readers something, each month, to worry about. Most of the diseases featured were so terrible that they even made me worry. Now that I am much older, I have begun to notice that the AARP Magazine does exactly the same thing. Every month there are one or more new diseases to worry about. So I thought I should use this time-tested promotional idea in my blog posts. So, for this month, the new disease is Genealogical Technological Apprehension or GTA.

Don't go looking in the Reader's Digest or AARP for this terrible malady, although if afflicts a broad segment of the genealogy community, because of the size of the community, the disease is not common in the general population. So here goes the standard disease report from an obscure clinic in Mesa, Arizona:

Genealogical Technological Apprehension or GTA is a moderately to severe condition that freezes the motor and mental functions of genealogists who sit down in front of a computer or other device. It is the most common cause of Computer Aversion, an even more serious disease related to withdrawal from active computer use and reversion to paper forms.

In GTA, the connection between the brain cells and motor nerves progressively freeze, leaving the victim incapable of operating a mouse or touchpad and so fearful of breaking the machine that they cannot distinguish between different icons on the screen.

There are no known cures for this disease and as it progresses the victims becomes more and more agitated and begin to avoid any contact with technology, refusing to purchase smartphones or even electric toasters.

At first, increasing forgetfulness or mild confusion may be the only symptoms of GTA disease that you notice. You can easily tell when this primary stage is reached however, because the victims forget how to use a flash drive and fail to back up any files they manage to create on the computer. But over time, the disease robs the victim of more of computer functions, especially recent updates and new operating systems. The rate at which symptoms worsen varies from person to person.

Everyone has occasional frustrations and inabilities to deal with operating a computer. It is normal to become agitated or antagonistic and threaten to throw the offending computer device into the street and run over it with a car, but GTA goes well beyond the normal reactions to technology. People with GTA may:
  • Repeat statements and questions over and over, not realizing that they've asked the question before about how to backup a file or open an application
  • Forget conversations, appointments or events, and not remember them later even when they receive repeated emails advising them of the event or appointment
  • Routinely misplace files, especially photos, often putting them in illogical locations
  • Eventually forgetting how to open folders and copy files from one folder to another
Disorientation and misinterpreting spatial relationships
People with GTA may forget that they haven't looked at their email for weeks at a time. They may even forget how to turn on their computer devices. They are bewildered by cables and start plugging them in randomly to try and get the machines to respond. In severe cases, GTA afflicts the victim with an inability to sit and use the device at all. One common way to diagnose the disease is to ask the victim to drag an icon into a folder. If the victim does not seem to understand either the term "icon" or "folder" it is likely the disease has progressed to the point of no return since the spatial relationship between icons and folders has become dysfunctional.

Thinking and reasoning
The surprising thing about GTA is that the victims appear perfectly normal in all other respects. They can communicate effectively and seem to be able to perform daily tasks without difficulty. The disease seems limited to the narrow area of technology.

Planning and performing familiar tasks
As mentioned, GTA infects the email processes and most marked in aversion to social networking. Victims have lost all contact with friends and family members due to their inability to post to Facebook or Google+. Their children repeatedly complain that they missed important family gatherings due to their failure to see the weddings and funeral posted on Facebook. 

The cause of GTA is obscure and still under study. But there are those that believe that for most people, GTA disease results from a combination of genetic, lifestyle and environmental factors that affect the brain over time.

Risk Factors
Increasing age is the greatest known risk factor for GTA. GTA is not a part of normal aging, but a person's risk increases greatly after age 65. Nearly half of those older than age 85 have GTA. Although rare, the disease can afflict anyone at any age. 

There is no known cure, although intense desire to complete a pedigree has been known to put the disease into remission. For more complete information about the disease, talk to volunteers at your local FamilySearch Center. 

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