Why is technology so difficult? It’s invisible. Older, mechanical systems had parts we could take off, fix and reinstall. That’s not done with a computer! “We have difficulty understanding what we can’t see, touch or fix and it is human nature to fear or avoid what we can’t understand or explain” according to Weil and Rosen, authors of TechnoStress.
The term technostress was coined by clinical psychologist Dr. Craig Brod in 1984 (isn’t that ironic?). He defined it as “a modern disease of adaptation caused by an inability to cope with the new computer technologies.”
Techostress is the result of our struggles to accept technology and/or our over identification with technology. Signs of technostress can vary depending on age, gender and computer literacy.
Technology runs through all areas of our lives; computers are integral parts of many of the devices we use daily. Moore’s Law tells us computing power doubles roughly every 2 years. Replacing hardware or software means learning new systems, often with little or no formal training. Standardization within technologies does not seem to exist, and reliability of software and hardware may be less than desirable – all thanks to the rapid turnover. The rate of progress may slow from time to time as we reach the limits of current technology, but there’s always a new technology that allows us to keep leaping forward.
Classifications of technostress
Five ways technostress reveals itself are:
- Techno-overload – feeling the need to work more (and faster) when using computers;
- Techno-invasion – feeling the need to be constantly connected because we can be connected almost wherever we go;
- Techno-complexity – feeling the need to spend time and effort learning new skills and keeping up to date with increasingly complex computer systems;
- Techno-insecurity – feeling the loss of privacy; feeling the threat of losing one’s job to someone who is more up-to-date; and
- Techno-uncertainty – feeling unsettled knowing today’s skills or familiar operations may well be outdated tomorrow, due to the short life cycle of computer systems.
Signs of technostress
- Physical aspects are readily apparent: headache, neck and shoulder pain; backache; eyestrain; RSI (repetitive stress injuries); stomach, chest and digestive issues; increased blood pressure; breathing difficulties, and other issues.
- Emotional aspects include: anxiety (which can manifest in some of the physical symptoms above); feelings of depression or helplessness; panic; nightmares; insomnia; irritability; indifference; frustration; errors in judgment; and even paranoia leading to avoidance of computers.
- Behavioral aspects may include: using computer terms in non-computer conversations; being overly comfortable with computers; overspending on computers; withdrawing from social circles in favor of time on computers; insomnia; uncooperativeness; smoking and drinking.
- Psychological aspects might manifest as: attempting to mimic the computer; frustration at feeling underemployed or dealing with too much routine; and feeling uncertain about one’s role in a job relying on more and more time working with technology.
Technology appears to be “catching”!
When one person has it, everyone around them needs it, too. You can’t have “social media” without the “social.” We “connect” with people we don’t know, sometimes to the detriment of connections with people we do know. Technology is addictive, and we don’t realize the amount of time we actually spend with it. We can be connected 24/7 and therefore feel we need to be.
Long, intense hours spent with computers can transform people into a machine-like state; they internalize computer characteristics. These techno-centered people display high degrees of factual thinking, insistence on speed and efficiency, poor access to their own feelings and a lack of empathy for others. Their relationship with the system is more important to them than their relationships with people.
Ray Kurzweil, Google’s director of engineering, has predicted that by the 2030s humans will be hybrids, with our brains connected to the cloud.
Researchers have identified a condition they call nomophobia (as in “no-mobile-phone-phobia”). This is the feeling of distress people experience from not having their phone; it has to do with the degree to which people depend on their phones to do basic tasks. In the past, people used other people to get information, but those “other people” are being replaced by devices.
Psychologically, the consequence of relying on devices for information is the reduction in our motivation – and our ability – to acquire and remember that knowledge. Iowa State University researchers have developed the Nomophobia Questionnaire (NMP-Q) to measure and study nomophobia.
Dealing with technostress
We do well when life is uncomplicated and our surroundings meet our needs. Modern technology can interfere with both. When something goes wrong, we tend to think it’s our fault, not the machine’s. One way to approach technostress is to assume there will be problems; then we won’t get so upset when problems do occur.
We need to remember that humans cannot work as fast as computers. Seeing productive technology all around us might make us feel inadequate and stressed. But tech is not going away. Every so often we need to take a tech-break. Even if we can’t get totally away from technology for a week’s vacation, we can strive for a day – or even a few hours – away from tech.
People will become what they follow. Are we destined to evolve into computers? Weil and Rosen advise: “To get the most from technology we must choose between what we actually need and want, what we think we need and want, and what we are told we need and should want.”
Eugenios, J. (2015, June 3). Accelerating intelligence. Retrieved from http://www.kurzweilai.net/cnn-ray-kurzweil-humans-will-be-hybrids-by-2030
Shafer, B. H. (1995). Assessing and managing technostress. Retrieved from https://www.una.edu/psychology/faculty-and-staff/hudiburg/Assessing and Managing Technostress.pdf
Technostress. (n.d.). In Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Retrieved March 18, 2016, from
Technostress: the human cost of the computer revolution. (n.d.). Retrieved from sneiderhauser.typepad.com/blog/Technostress.pdf
Valdesolo, P. (2015, October 27). http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/scientists-study-nomophobia-mdash-fear-of-being-without-a-mobile-phone.
Weil, M.M., & Rosen, L.D. (1997). TechnoStress: coping with technology @work @hoe @play. New York, NY: J. Wiley.
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