Technophobia – Fear of Technology

Automated teller machine (ATM) produced by NCR

Automated teller machine (ATM) produced by NCR (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of us, especially senior citizens, fear technology.  Indeed, there is an official name for the fear of technology: technophobia.  Technophobia applies to those who are extremely afraid, so afraid that they’ll avoid things like computers, mobile devices, ATM machines, and even medical treatments that involve high tech devices.

My Fear of Technology

Deep down inside, I am fighting technophobia every day and have been doing this all my life.  It isn’t easy, but the cost of avoiding technology is much greater than not.  Where did I get this fear?  It may have started as I had trouble operating electronic devices as a kid.  Because of my extreme nearsightedness, I had to look at every gadget extremely close, such as handheld calculators or stereo equipment.

I would try operating these things only to flop again and again in frustration because the thing I wanted it to do wouldn’t work.  I would even get teased by my foster siblings because I had difficulty making things work.  I had to look hard to find the decimal key on the calculator.  We had a single dial microwave and trying to read that dial required glasses.

I grew up in the 1970s where things were quite simplistic as compared to now.  If you wanted to call somebody, you would have to call from a landline phone.  Once you called someone and they weren’t home, the phone would ring indefinitely until you hung up.  You couldn’t leave a message and they would never know you called.  If you needed to deposit or withdraw money, you would have to drive to the bank, and oh, don’t forget your bank book!  If you did, that meant driving back home to get it.

Then came the birth of the ATM.  In the late 1970s it was just an idea as I heard that you’ll be able to make bank transactions without actually going to the bank.  How could that be?  Sounds absurd!  In the mid 1980s I too began using it and enjoyed the convenience.  I also learned that you could make deposits by inserting an envelope of cash or checks into the machine and at first I’m like: “There’s no way in hell I’m going to do that!”  Eventually I did and likewise, enjoyed the convenience.  Nowadays, there are ATMs that allow you to slide a naked check into the machine, whose image will be photographed before it goes into your account.  Yikes!  I’d rather go to the bank.

Now look at us today.  Most of us have home computers and are communicating over the Internet.  Yes, this idea was neat from the start.  Just think about all the trees we’ve saved by having it.  Now there are a countless number of portable devices, many with touch screens where one can roll through numerous pages of icons in seconds.  Even though I watch the CNet channel, I still am trying to understand what makes each device different from another of its kind.  I’ve seen commercials where two Smartphones (I think that’s what they were) were slammed together as a means of one person making a payment to another.  I still fear the day that I’ll be doing that.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the convenience of cyberspace.  It took me awhile to convert from conventional LPs to MP3s.  “What?  MP3 files!  What the hell are those?”  In the 1980s I became accustomed to my personal cassette stereo and the CD walkman.  It wasn’t until 2007when I got my first MP3 player and loved it as well.  Now I wonder why I ever went through the trouble of wearing my CD player around my neck and toting a case of CDs around.

Then my brother got me an AT&T phone for Christmas in 2010.  I’m like, “What’s wrong with the phone I have?”  My old phone had a keypad and crystal screen-nothing more.  This new one had a larger screen full of icons and a slide out keypad.  And now there is the texting feature.  Yikes!  It’s all I can do to type on a desktop keyboard.  We had trouble with it at first and took it into Radio Shack where he bought it.  While talking to a rep, I felt like flinging the new phone across the store, out of pure frustration.

My Best Friend’s has Technophobia

We’ll call him “David” to protect the cyber-paranoid innocent man.  Dave doesn’t own a computer and never intends to buy one, even if he earned big bucks.  I coaxed him to learn to use a computer and he would do so for awhile and quit.  Since he lives six states away from me, I tell him how great it would be if he had an email address and we email each other rather than send paper letters via snail mail.  That was ten years ago and he still refuses to do that.  He will not even use a library PC.

I pity him.  David just refuses to do things online.  He won’t even set up an email account because he’s afraid that people are after his personal information.  It was all he could do to get his cell phone and that frustrated him so much, he slapped it against a table.  He’s missing out on a lot of good stuff.  Why?  Because he is technophobic!

About Technophobia

Some people fear technology to extreme levels.  Their fear is so immense that it greatly hinders their everyday lives.  Techno phobics may refuse to use an ATM machine, thinking it will not disperse the right amount of cash or it might cause their deposit to become lost in cyberspace.  Like David, some refuse to use computers thinking they may become victims of identity theft.  Others simply fear that running high-tech devices is extremely complicated and they don’t have the ability to figure them out.

However, senior citizens are known to have technophobia since they are accustomed to the lifestyle they had as children or young adults.  To them it’s like “Why do I need these gadgets?  I’ve always lived without them and I would prefer to do things the way I always have.”  In fact, many of them are intimidated by modern technology.  They may perceive new electronics as large unnecessary expenses or things that are too complicated or confusing for them to learn to use.  Some simply resist technology and attempt to go on living as they learned to live.

Those with an extreme level of technophobia may experience the following symptoms:

  • Panic or anxiety
  • Shaking
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Uncontrollable sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Adverse emotional reactions

What causes technophobia?  To date, there is no clinical data that directly links to technophobia.   A logical explanation may be that it was caused by one or more events that happened in the person’s past that brought on their feelings.  Bad experiences or failure to adapt often attributes to technophobia.

Therapists usually resort to cognitive behavioral therapy in treating their patients.  This form of treatment helps a patient:

  • Get rid of destructive thought patterns
  • Identify distorted thoughts and beliefs
  • Transform negative beliefs into positive ones
  • Build a better self-image

Each patient meets with the therapist who helps them gradually face their fear while learning to control their behavior and unfavorable reactions.  Peer groups have been proven effective in helping the affected person overcome their fear.  Anyone who is willing to assist an individual with technophobia and teach them how to operate electronics or appliances can help one with technophobia.

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