If you have ever hesitated to use your child’s smartphone, or wondered how to operate a computer without someone giving you guidance, you may not be alone. A number of people find it difficult to deal with technology and gadgets inspire fear in them. Some people take this fear to an extreme and may be called ‘technophobics’ by psychologists.
Technophobia is not an officially recognized mental illness but it is the extreme and irrational fear of technology. Usually, this fear is related to irrational fear of computers, robots, artificial intelligence, weapons and other such things which seem advanced in scientific thought. Many people fear genetically modified organisms too (GMO), though research shows that they are safe to consume. In other words, fear of science and technology is a very real problem in our societies and it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that one can find a technophobic around every street corner.
Fear or just aversion to technology?
Yet, in this article, we are going to discuss technophobia as a general term, not as the extreme avoidance of computers as people understand it. So, for the scope of this article, technophobia is hesitation or aversion towards new technologies, especially cloud technology, mobile applications, the use of Internet and of coding. This is a huge problem today because a number of businesses are still using computers that run on Windows XP, and refuse to bring in any sort of technological advancement to their companies. This has resulted in loss of growth, stagnation of economy and a general sense of lethargy that is simply not required.
Most of these companies which refuse to adopt new technologies often have CEOs that are resistant to changes, directors who are technophobic in its real term and people who just do not want to see any kind of changes made at all. All these categories of people have hampered the growth of their own companies and of society in general. In this article, let us understand what technophobia is, and how we can overcome it, so that newer technologies can be adopted without fearing them. Of course, this is not going to happen all of a sudden, and will take time, but the effort put in is certainly worth it.
Self help does not get the credit it usually deserves. While books like The Secret and others are panned by certain people, there are a lot of self help techniques that can actually work. You will need to find out what is best for you. If you believe your aversion towards technology is irrational and that it must be paid attention to, you have already reached a certain level of insight. This insight can further be developed into making positive changes in life that will help to introduce technology slowly but surely.
For example: Sam was fearful of smartphones. He initially purchased a basic cellphone model, and graduated to using a smartphone. He did not give his number to everyone and instead, only allowed his daughter to call him. Slowly, he started to converse with his friends on the phone and in the end, he encouraged himself to check emails, call the customer, etc.
If self help techniques do not help, counseling can be the next step. Counselors do not train mental health issues nor are they trained to do that. They only help you to gain clarity about your situation and advise what could be the best thing to do. Counselors may assess your situation and tell you why you are avoiding technology though it is obviously harming you. They may teach you certain techniques and listen to you patiently when you discuss your fears. Most people may ridicule your technophobia but a counselor will validate your fears and emotions. That alone is enough to help you start making positive changes in your life.
For Example: Nicole always avoided her computer and was not able to use Skype to make video calls to her son. She sought the help of a counselor who pointed out that if she avoids her fear, she will never overcome it. Nicole slowly started to make video calls to not only her son, but also to her colleagues.
When just counseling will not help, you may seek the help of support groups. Support groups are great for people who wish to share their stories with others. They can also learn from others how they are dealing with a particular issue. By choosing support groups, one can understand what others are doing to overcome technophobia and imbibe the same techniques back when they are facing issues. Most importantly, support groups help people to realize that they are not alone. The very fact that there are other people who too face technophobia can be an epiphany of sorts.
Example: Jason could not bear to set up an ERP at his factory. This caused many lost opportunities and significant losses. At a support group, he met another business owner who told him that he was seeking extra support for an ERP so that he doesn’t have to deal with the software himself. Jason was back in his factory and implemented an ERP.
When simple counseling or support groups do not have any effect, one may need professional help from a psychologist. Psychologists often use cognitive behavior therapy to change the thought pattern that might be enabling the fear. They also gradually introduce the client to the feared stimulus (in this case, some technology), and help them to reduce anxiety, fear and stress during those situations.
For example: Christine disliked using projectors because she felt something would go wrong, though she could not pin point what this eventual disaster would be. Her psychologist slowly helped her to use the projector without feeling anxious or fearful. Christine got better at using projectors and started to make great presentations.
Sometimes, psychologists aim to treat the underlying cause, which usually is a traumatic incident in the past, that comes back to haunt the individual in the form of technophobia. Addressing the past trauma helps the psychologist to treat the neurosis and help the client to overcome technophobia. This usually involves the client seeing the psychologist at least once a week and discussing his past experiences that led to developing the phobia.
For example: Martin could not use tablets or laptops because he felt they would fall down and break. His psychologist discovered that as a child, Martin once dropped a typewriter and was punished severely by his mother. This led to an unconscious fear of all things related to keyboards (laptops and tablets). Treating this repressed memory helped to solve Martin’s fear of tablets or laptops.
The path to recovery from technophobia
It is now clear that technophobia is not a recognized mental illness but just an absurd aversion towards all things technological. This may vary from avoiding computers and smartphones to demonizing GMO products. This may be a minor issue and may be self limiting or it may affect the person so much that he may not be able to take up regular jobs. Technophobia is a serious issue that needs mental health treatment if one is not able to do anything about it. Technophobia may cause loss of jobs, bad financial situations, lost friendships, stress, anxiety and a general sense of unpleasantness.
A recap of treating technophobia
To treat technophobia, one can take many of the available support systems today. The first step would be to try self help. Self help consists of telling yourself that there is nothing wrong with using technology and that you can start increasing the amount of technology you use everyday little by little.
The second step consists of seeking counseling to understand why you avoid technology so much. There are chances that you maybe avoiding technology because of some deep rooted issues. If the counselor finds out that your technophobia is due to deep rooted issues, he or she may send you to some support groups or a mental health provider.
Support groups are a great way to discuss our problems and share and learn ways to cope with technology avoidance. Most people in these support groups tend to have the same issue, so they will not judge you harshly. If support groups do not help you, it is time to seek professional help from a psychologist.
Usually, psychologists treat technophobia using cognitive behavior therapy or psychodynamic therapy. In cognitive behavior therapy, you are taught to face your fears in a graded manner and slowly you will be able to not respond to technology with aversion or anxiety. In psychodynamic therapy, your childhood issues are explored and traumatic incidents that may have caused this irrational aversion towards technology maybe explored. Both these therapies provide lasting effect and you will be able to lead a normal life like many other people.
So, do not worry about disliking technology. Seek help when you can, and your life will get a lot easier.