Stockholm Syndrome

Ok, so it’s circa 2002 and I’m watching a new detective show on TV about a guy with OCD. As I ponder how a person can possibly function with so many issues, my mom calls.

“Hi, it’s your mom.”

“Hi Mom.”

“You busy?”

I glance earnestly toward the stream of electrons across the room. “Uh, I guess not.”

“Great, can you help me with a computer thing?”

“Oh, um, sure.”

“Well I just got ‘Word Perfect’ and used it to write a letter to your uncle Jim and now I can’t find it. I think my computer removed it.”

“Oh, well did you look in the recycle bin?”

“Where’s that?”

“It’s on your desktop.”

“On the computer?”

“Yeah. There’s an icon on the desktop called “Recycle Bin.”

“You mean the little picture of the trash can?”

“Yeah, the part of the computer that it sits on is called the ‘Desktop.’” Anyway, double click on the Recycle Bin.”

“Open it up?”


“Ok, it’s open.”

“Is anything in there?”

“Yeah, ‘The Internet’ and ‘Setup’ and two little pictures of paper.”

“Ok, does one of those pictures have the name that you gave the letter?”

“I don’t think my letter had a name. It was just a letter I was writing.”

“Mom, why aren’t you using the email I set up for you?”

“I don’t want to use it. It’s too complicated.”

“But I set up an ico… um, one of those little pictures on the desktop for you. All you have to do is open it and click ‘New Message like I showed you.’ I even set up all of your contacts for you. Uncle Jim is in there and everything.”

“I just want help finding the letter I wrote.”

Sigh “Ok, fine… Is ‘Word Perfect’ open now?”

“How do I know that?”

“Well, you know the bar at the bottom of the computer where the ‘Start’ button is?”


“Well to the right of it, is there another button on the bar with a picture of a blue circle with a pen in it?”


“Is there a button there at all?”

“There’s a picture that looks like a speaker.”

“Huh? No, I mean on the left side of that bar, right next to the ‘Start’ button.”

“What about it?”

“Is there a big button there?”


“Ok, what does it say?”

“Document one dash Microsoft dot dot dot.”

“Ok, try clicking on that.”

“Oh! There it is! Oh son, you’re so good at this stuff. Thank you!”

“You’re welcome.”

“Ok, goodb… Wait! One more thing. Could you tell me how to get a photo from my new camera into this letter?”

“Oh crap! Mom, I totally forgot I have to go pick up a friend of mine at the airport! Let’s talk later.”

“Ok, well thanks again.”


Hostage Crisis

At the end of my last article, Erik commented “We’re all suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.” I thought it was a perfect way to describe our relationship with computers.

Those us us who work in tech love our tools with all their complexity. We relish in the fact that we know all the keystrokes for doing every little task in our favorite apps. We are secure in our investment of so much time and energy and effort to learn all the tricks and nuances of our computers.

We fool ourselves by thinking traditional computing is easy.

It isn’t.

Those who malign the Apple iPad for not being more like the computers they’re used to are suffering from a severe case of Stockholm Syndrome.

*Disclaimer: My mother is a smart lady. She has a bachelors from a major university, she’s a leader in her community and now uses computers every day for her job. She’s pretty typical of most non-tech folks I know. And yes, she might read this at some point.

posted by Rob Foster on Monday, Feb 08, 2010
tagged with hostage, situation, stockholm, syndrome, computers