Dear Mr. Tech Expert


By Neil Offen

I’m frustrated. My children don’t answer the phone when I call them. They don’t respond to emails. Now they have unfriended me on Facebook, blocked me on Instagram and don’t even reply when I text them. How can you communicate with younger people today?

Dear Frustrated:

Young people today are very busy taking selfies of their selves and creating designer pickles and craft beer made from organically-sourced cardboard. They don’t want to be disturbed by last week’s technology.

So, if it’s an emergency — for instance, you really need help becoming a social media influencer — you might try using the more youth-oriented Snapchat to get in touch. But of course, that’s only if you know what Snapchat is and can differentiate it from WhatsApp in a police lineup. If nothing else works, as a last resort, you might just FedEx them a sad-faced emoji. Make sure you don’t send the emoji to their landline. Which, of course, they won’t have.


I am concerned that I haven’t backed up any of my files since 1997. I understand I could lose my documents, my contacts, my photos and my mind if something went wrong. I want to save everything to the cloud, but I don’t know how to do that.

Dear Concerned:

First you have to choose your cloud. We recommend cumulus. Although we’ve seen good reviews on Yelp and Tripadvisor for cirrus.

After you make that choice, carefully hold your laptop or mobile device above your head and up to the sky and, magically, everything gets copied to the cloud because, frankly, how else could it happen? Yes, it’s a miracle.


I am worried about online security. What if someone — you know, the Russians — hacks my email accounts, discovers that I actually have responded to spam from a Nigerian prince and steals my identity? How can I protect myself while online?

Dear Worried:

The first thing to do is change your passwords. That’s always the first thing to do because it’s so amusing to watch you try and figure out a new, complex password and betting on whether you’ll remember it. If changing your password doesn’t work, change your user name, although you will never remember which user name you should be using for which site and will have to click on that little button by the sign-in box that says, “Forgot Your User Name? What an Idiot You Are.”

If even that doesn’t work, and you’re still worried about identity theft, change your identity before any hackers steal it. You could become, for instance, a crown prince of Nigeria.


I am overwhelmed with passwords. I have too many and keep using the wrong ones for the wrong accounts. I don’t even know if this is the right password that will allow me to ask you questions.

Dear Overwhelmed:

It seems your password is fine, but unless you are a Nigerian prince offering me the chance to make a lot of money, you have keyed in the wrong user name. Please try again.

Carrboro resident Neil Offen has written humor pieces for a number of different publications, in a number of different countries. His column will appear twice monthly in The Local Reporter.

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