How many people here have mastered, truly mastered, their technology inside and out? I know I haven’t. There’s still PLENTY I have no idea how to do, even writing the tech column for y’all every week. And this week, I’ve just gotten back from A-Camp, which for me only means one thing: A-Plague. A-Plague is the illness I get every time I come down from the mountain. Every. Damn. Time. Except this time, I chose to lay down and stay down instead of working through it. And I got better faster than normal. That didn’t mean I did nothing, though. That’d be boring. So in between watching Parks and Rec, liking Facebook photos and sleeping, I did something I hadn’t done in quite a while.
I played with my computer.
Now I don’t mean played on my computer — I’ve been getting into the more casual of games lately, playing through The Cave like it’s my job and finally getting around to Year Walk (something I wanted to finish last December). Those are valuable things, but that’s not what I was doing. And I don’t mean work on or with my computer either — I do work on my computer so often that I feel like it’s to my detriment as a human. No, I mean truly play with my computer. And that means I a) take something I’ve never explored before and b) mess with it, but without setting any kind of real hard goal for myself.
And y’all, let me tell you. I needed that.
See, I used to teach adult clients how to use their computer for personal or business use. And while every person learned differently, there was one piece of advice that remained completely constant for all humans I ever saw. Set aside a bit of time each week to just futz with the computer. Noodle with it. Play with it. It’s easier said than done. The same people who don’t play with their computers often say things like “I’m sorry, I’m so bad at this.” Or “I use a computer like a grandma” — it’s a thing I’ve pointed out before. The biggest culprit in my completely anecdotal, only fit for a personal essay experience are adult women. Many women truly don’t think they can learn technology.
I mean, I get it. I always feel like, as a woman, the pressure is on. The pressure to be instantly perfect at anything you do. Or at least, to keep quiet about what you’re learning and trying until you’re absolutely sure it’s 100% watertight. If even a fraction of the pressure to look perfect falls into other arenas of our lives, it’s safe to say we’re under a lot of stress to kill it at absolutely everything. We often feel like women have to be the best in the room to be considered good at all. Whereas those perceived as men are encouraged to be the explorer, to voyage where no one has gone before, and fuck the education and planning. It’s why we have the “hero brogammer syndrome”: a brogrammer effs the code up, realizes it 24 hours before deadline, works all night to fix it and then is rewarded for pulling the all-nighter. Many women in the industry complain that they aren’t showed as much recognition simply because their code wasn’t broken in the first place. In short, men are encouraged to play, women are encouraged to learn. The thing is, especially with computers, we learn by playing. A catch-22.
So y’all — regardless of how you identify — if you’re not a cisgender, heterosexual man and you haven’t been taught to play with your technology yet, do that. Futz about. Set no goals for yourself, other than the goal of having a nice time futzing about. And then — hear me out — if you futz about and wind up with a thing to show and tell, show off that thing. Even if it’s imperfect. Because fuck instant perfection.
That brings me to what I futzed about with this week — Ariel Marcy’s piece “Taking Over The World One Controller At A Time: The Good News About Queer Games” mentioned a handy little doodad out here on the interwebs: Scratch, by MIT. Now here’s my deal — I’m good at the part of programming where you memorize steps. I am not good at the part of programming where you put all those steps together creatively to solve a problem. In short, I am a great memorizer and a not-so-great programmer. But man, in my cold-medicine induced state, I remembered my own advice. I futzed. And I came up with this, a very imperfect maze game, and I am going to share it with you. It features Marni, in her knight costume, trying to get to the mountain:
So. What have you futzed about with today?
This has been the eighty-first installment of Queer Your Tech with Fun, Autostraddle’s nerdy tech column. Not everything we cover is queer per se, but we talk about customizing this awesome technology you’ve got. Having it our way, expressing our appy selves just like we do with our identities. Here we can talk about anything from app recommendations to choosing a wireless printer to web sites you have to favorite to any other fun shit we can do with technology. Feature image via Shutterstock Header by Rory Midhani