By Danielle Schapaugh
There’s a secret group of people out there (code name EVERYONE) who can sometimes feel intimidated by technology. It almost seems as if technology has constructed a new culture with a set of encrypted rules and customs that are frightening to outsiders. If you didn’t learn the language of the tech-y as a child, never fear! There are plenty of ways to catch up, and the library is here to help.
Here are a few best practices that will serve you well. If you’re a pro, it’s still a good idea to brush up on the basics now and again, so keep reading.
First, you need a system for keeping your information safe online. This is the most important step. Once you’re safe, you can explore and try new things without fear.
Which brings us to PASSWORDS. *Cue scary music.* You need strong passwords for every account, and it isn’t safe to re-use them. Think of the Titanic: if there’s a breach, you want all the security measures and safety locks in place to keep the ship from going down. But how do you manage to remember it all? You don’t. You get to write it down in a password book.
A password book is like an address book for all your accounts. “But how is that safe?” you ask. It’s safe because it’s kept in a physically secure location, and you can write hints rather than passwords if you want to be extra sure the information won’t leak out. Step 1) Find a password book, address book, or even a notebook to use. Step 2) Write down your information whenever you add an account, and keep it up-to-date. Step 3) Stash the book in a safe place that you can still access when needed. Don’t keep the password book on top of your desk or in your purse. Create a physical barrier of some sort so the information isn’t easy for someone else to find.
Next, develop a code for creating and remembering your passwords so you don’t always need to check the book. For example, if I am interested in astrology, I might use the signs of the zodiac as my code. I could start with the sentence “Aquarius likes water,” and replace a few of the letters with symbols such as @ for lowercase “a” and $ for “s.” The result is Aqu@riu$like$w@ter. That’s good, but not great. It needs a little more code, so I will use H20 instead of “water,” and add 3 instead of “e”. The result is a rock-solid password like Aqu@riu$lik3$H20 that’s difficult to hack, but relatively easy to remember because it has meaning for me. If you use the same substitutions for all your passwords, you’ve got yourself a secret code. (Which kind of makes you a superspy!)
Once you have solid passwords in place, you can explore the internet without fear. “But what about all the devices, social media, apps, and everything else? What the heck is a hashtag? This is only the tip of the iceberg!” you plead.
It’s difficult for print materials to keep up with the trends, thus it’s almost impossible to recommend a good book for reference. Instead, try learning online so you can practice as you explore. Start with sites like Microsoft.com tutorials, Learning Express training through the library’s website www.MHKLibrary.org, or www.visualsteps.com, which offer the basics.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help. You will be surprised at how many other people are looking for the answers, too. If you ask, you will either find an ally in your search or a sage who can answer your question. There’s no shame in the search for knowledge!
Just make sure you’re asking for advice from people you trust. Visit the library, talk to a librarian, and use one of our computers if you want to explore risk-free. Type in your questions online and look at sites with names you recognize like Apple and Microsoft, read instruction booklets that come with devices, ask your friends, or enroll in a class.
UFM offers computer training classes, the library has Tech Tuesday courses, and you can make appointments at the library for one-on-one training, too. Call the Manhattan Public Library at 776-4741 ext. 141 to schedule a session.
Most importantly, don’t give up! It’s better to try and fail than to do nothing and succeed. The world of technology is all around us, and it isn’t going away anytime soon.