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Dad, the Wheel's On Fire!

“Hello, is that the Instagram help desk? I say in polite tones. “May I speak to those helpful operators, Lewis or Leah, please?” “Yes, how can I help you?” comes the chirpy reply. Cue much laughter at both ends of the phone.

I’ve only recently joined Instagram at the urging of our youngest son and he, and his lovely girlfriend, are keeping me right. These calls are regular and they are being very patient about it. I’m learning that Instagram is all about photos. Communication with images rather than words.

“Like a comic?” I asked when it was first suggested as vital for my new role as a blogger. “Or a storyboard perhaps?” “Sort of” said Lewis. “More photos than words, let the images do the talking. You need to be on Instagram if you want to reach young people my age because they are leaving Facebook in droves as their mums and grans take it over”. I have visions of hordes of horror-stricken millennials drifting off into cyberspace as the baby boomers stage a takeover bid. Can there be anything worse than getting a friend request from your granny or your auntie Jean?

One of my early calls to the “helpdesk” was late on a weekday night. Lewis answered the phone and asked me to describe what I was seeing on my Insta home page. When I couldn’t find the symbol he was describing, he suggested that we facetime on my iphone, with it pointing to the home page on my ipad, so that he could see what I was seeing.

I know, it sounds crazy and actually felt quite ridiculous. Especially when I could see that they were lying back on the bed also watching a movie on his laptop. At least 4 device screens were involved and my fits of giggles at the insanity of it all didn’t help either. Just think, NONE of this was possible when I was Lewis’s age just a few decades ago.

My point though is that it’s not all one way. In our three-generation family, as I’m sure it is for many others, we all provide some sort of “help desk and advice” service on a day to day basis. Granny Ruby, aged 86 next month, got an ipad and joined Facebook earlier this year and I help keep her right. Our older son Steven is on call for all of her Kindle queries.


Husband Tom is the family spreadsheet expert and has taken calls from all of us on his travels around the globe when we needed a quick Excel solution. Yes, I’ve phoned Tom at a power station in South Africa and when he was working on the Panama Canal. It was, quite frankly, sometimes quicker than waiting for the office IT help desk to respond to a simple query.

Steven is also the WIX website expert and there’s not much he doesn’t know about Linkedin as a recruitment manager. I’m good with Linkedin too and can claim to know more than the rest of them about the magic of Twitter, which I joined way back in 2011.

It’s not just about digital technology though. I’ve lost count of how many calls Ruby and I have had from the lads in Tesco or Asda when they suddenly needed a quick reminder of the ingredients and methods for a favorite family recipe. Medical matters (Ruby’s speciality as a former nurse manager ) holiday destinations, bits of work advice etc. etc. You never quite know what the query will be. We all help each other out.

Perhaps the most spectacular “helpdesk” call was when Steven was doing his gap year in Australia. In the early hours of a weekend morning, with flames shooting out the wheel of 22-year-old camper van (Arnold) on the three-lane highway in heavy traffic heading into Sydney, did he dial emergency or call a breakdown service? No, he phoned Dad 10,500 miles away! What’s more, the advice Tom gave him got it under control and going again in no time. Amazing.


The younger generation may be the digital natives, but there’s no denying we’ve all got skills and knowledge worth sharing – let’s be sure to value every generation’s contribution.

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© 2019 by Sandra Burke