9 stages of grief when your technology fails

computer happy

We’ve all been there. It’s 11:58 p.m. and you have 120 more seconds to finish the essay you’ve been “working on” for a week but have actually been working on for only the past six hours.

It is now 11:59 p.m. and your mouse is hovering over the fateful “Submit” button when, by some cruel trick of the universe (or maybe karma telling you that you should have started this paper earlier), your laptop dies.

Here’s a model of the nine stages of grief that UC Berkeley students undergo when this happens to them.

Step 1: Shock (screaming expletives)

While this can be a detrimental reaction to many situations, technology failure is not one of them. In fact, just the opposite is true: The loud emission of expletives is scientifically proven to actually speed up the rebooting process of laptops. Although your roommates may not appreciate this phenomenon, they would probably react the same way if faced with your current miserable situation.

Step 2. Denial (turning your device off and back on again)

You think to yourself, “It’s not real. It can’t be real, right? My computer was working just fine yesterday. I mean, no, I don’t update it, and I never turn it off, but other people don’t do that either and their computers don’t crash!” So you close it to restart because that always works, right? But it doesn’t.

Step 3. Bargaining (willing the computer to work)

Thoughts start circling around your mind. It’s all your fault. Everything is your fault. You think over and over to yourself, “If only I had updated my computer. If only I had written down any of my passwords instead of just hitting the ‘Remember my password’ button. If only I had backed up my computer like my boyfriend told me to a million times. If only I knew how to use the computers in the library. If only I weren’t so attached to technology.”

Step 4. Anger (throwing stuff)

If all of the above hasn’t worked, you will probably resort to a more violent method of coping — that is, injuring both yourself and your belongings with your angry outbursts. You start throwing things. It takes everything within you to not break your roommate’s computer, because why does she deserve a computer if you don’t? It’s not fair. Life isn’t fair. Life is hopeless and meaningless. You decide to watch some Netflix to relieve some stress, then realize it isn’t even an option because you have no computer. So you throw more things and cry more. By this time, your roommates have probably gotten a little concerned for your sanity, but if they ask, you’re “just fine, thanks.”

Step 5. More bargaining (calling that one tech-savvy friend we all have)

You pray to a higher power, hoping that somewhere, somehow, Steve Jobs is listening and graciously waiting to offer you sage advice on you can fix the unfixable. This is UC Berkeley, and there’s no shortage of people who have experience with technology. Whether they’ll actually want to help you at midnight is another matter entirely. Suggested bribes include — but are not limited to — fro-yo, CREAM, Top Dog, coffee, and your eternal, unconditional love. Success is not guaranteed, though.

Step 6. Reckoning with your loss (frantically searching for alternatives)

For a moment, you’ll think about busting out the entire essay on a typewriter and somehow faxing it to your professor. (Wait, what are either of those things, anyway?) More possibilities include carrier pigeon and horse-and-buggy mail delivery, which seem almost viable until you realize that you (probably) can’t find either of those things in Berkeley. Then you hate yourself for not having saved a backup to your email.

Step 7. Even more bargaining (emailing the professor)

In a final attempt to salvage your grade, you’ll let your GSI or professor know that, yes, you’re aware that everyone uses this excuse, but really, your laptop actually died in the final two minutes of writing your essay. Please. You’re choosing to ignore the fact that they probably won’t check their email by tomorrow anyway, in which case you’re doomed. But it’s at least worth a shot.

Step 8. Sadness (crying)

Tears fall. How will you manage school without a computer? You’re going to fail all of your classes now. Just drop out. Say goodbye to all of your aspirations. You have no computer. You are worthless.

Step 9. Acceptance (bedtime)

It’s now 3 a.m. and you’ve tried everything you can within the realm of physical possibility. As people reach out to you in your time of loss, you realize that this happens to other people, too. You are not the first person in the world whose computer stopped working, right? You can’t be. That’s statistically impossible. Technology failure is a well-known college student affliction. You wipe off your tears and make an appointment at the Genius Bar. (Could they have picked a more pretentious name?) Although the trek there may be a struggle within itself, it’ll be worth it. You’ll reach some sort of peace, be it in a new laptop or a restored version of what you already had. Hopefully, though, when you wake up tomorrow, this will all have been a terrible nightmare.

Contact Sophia Bylsma at [email protected].