"Seek not the good in external things. Seek it in thyself." - Epictetus

Grandfather confused by smartphone camera; “How did I get in there?”

Twenty-two year old Joe Weber says his family’s grandfather seems to be having a nervous breakdown ever since encountering smart technology. “Charles lives in a senior citizen apartment complex,” said Joe. “He’s getting to be that age where he can’t do the things he used to, so we thought we’d use technology to make life easier for him.” Unfortunately, the Weber family admits that it’s had the opposite effect, throwing their grandfather into a world of paranoia and confusion.

“I guess it all started when we bought Charles an Amazon Echo,” said Joe’s girlfriend Marie. “From the very first time he heard Alexa speak, he thought he was hearing the disembodied voice of his 1957 high school sweetheart. He doesn’t make the connection that it’s coming from the device. In fact, he seems to think it’s some sort of container for his medication. He keeps picking it up and twisting it, then tossing it aside in frustration.”

“It’s been very difficult,” said Charles’s son and Joe’s father, Henry Weber. “We got him a computer so he could get emails about things like when to pick up his pills from the pharmacy. Instead he treated it like a television, trying to use the remote and ranting that he couldn’t find the ‘pharmacy channel.’ Finally we showed him how to use the keyboard, and initially he thought it was wonderful. ‘I key a word in down here,’ he would say, ‘and it gets written on the screen up there!’ But we couldn’t get him to do much more than that. Now he’s abandoned it completely.”

“We tried to talk to him about the concept of email,” said Marie. “He seemed to put it together, until the next day, when we learned he spent about two hours waiting outside his apartment ‘for the email man to come with today’s news.’ Bless him, he took the computer screen with him, thinking he needed to show it to someone to get the delivery.”

“I think that what finally freaked him out completely though was the smartphone,” said Henry. “We tried to show him the camera, and he just lost it. ‘How did I get in there?’ he kept asking. ‘Get me outta there!’ He’s not sure what it means, and I think it’s shaken his grip on reality. I caught him the other day examining a CD player, checking to see if he could see his face on it. He won’t even look in a mirror anymore. Yesterday he caught his reflection on a polished countertop and nearly had a heart attack.”

The Webers think the best course of action is to remove Charles from a technological environment altogether. They plan to relocate him to a trailer park in rural Oklahoma. “Something’s gotta be done,” said Joe. “Between all the devices in his home and and ours, he doesn’t know what’s up and what’s down. He’s trying to write on the TV, yelling at his phone, taking his keyboard to the pharmacy, and just this morning he was talking to his old Panasonic radio, giving it carefully explained instructions.”

“It’s taught us an important lesson,” Marie concluded. “Senior citizens everywhere are tormented by technology on a daily basis. Just remember: your next smartphone could be your grandparents’ next nightmare.”

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