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Spotlight on Cyberphobia

written by: Stephanie Torreno • edited by: Daniel P. McGoldrick • updated: 4/20/2011

Modern life has come to rely on computers for working, playing, communicating, and managing daily activities. What if, however, a fear of computers stopped someone from using technology and benefiting from its conveniences? Read this article on cyberphobia, its causes, symptoms, and treatments.

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    The Age of Technology

    Computers have revolutionized the way we work, learn, play, and manage our daily lives. These powerful little machines increase productivity and give us access to much information. In fact, workplaces and schools now expect individuals to be computer literate and use these systems to accomplish required tasks. What if, however, an individual is afraid of computers?

    Cyberphobia, or the fear of computers or working on computers, affects many people. This fear becomes further common as technology takes a more relevant place in society. Like many phobias, this irrational fear can negatively impact several areas of an individual’s life. The anxiety of computers, though, particularly presents problems in business and in education as it can affect work productivity and training effectiveness.

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    The Causes and Symptoms of Cyberphobia

    Fear of computers may be the result of a lack of experience with computers. Research findings have been mixed regarding the relationship between computer anxiety and computer experience. Generally, though, cyberphobia decreases as positive experiences with computers, not just experiences in general, increase. Males typically have less computer fear than females. Studies also found that adults fear computers more than children or teenagers. When compared to younger adults, however, older adults felt less cyberphobia, even though they had less experience with computers. Individuals who fear computers may fear all new technology, including cell phones, Blackberrys, iPods, and other MP3 players.Some of the symptoms of cyberphobia match those of other phobias. The fear of computers or working on computers can result in the following:

    • avoidance of computers and other technology
    • failure to complete computerized tasks
    • resistance to back up hard drives or organize files
    • excessive sweating
    • dry mouth
    • nausea
    • shaking
    • heart palpitations
    • breathlessness
    • inability to speak or think clearly
    • a full blown anxiety attack
    • a fear of dying
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    Treatments for Cyberphobia

    Unlike other phobias in which one can avoid the feared object or activity, computers are becoming impossible to avoid. If cyberphobia is holding you back at work, at school, or in daily living, try the following tips to conquer the fear and gain confidence with the computer.

    • Approach computers, software, and the Internet slowly. Do not attempt to learn everything at once.
    • Seek learning opportunities with classes, computer and business magazines, or on-line tutorials.
    • Begin to discover how useful computers can be by using them for simple tasks. If you are trying to learn new software, start with tasks you know how to accomplish on your current software, such as writing a letter or creating a chart. Practice basic tasks, then try more difficult ones.
    • Ask a computer expert to guide you in learning. A coworker or friend will enjoy sharing expertise and can provide valuable assistance.

    Cyberphobia can be overcome by working with computers slowly and accomplishing small tasks. In extreme cases, however, medication and/or therapy may be necessary to control the anxiety and other symptoms that impact an individual’s ability to live a normal life. These treatments should especially be considered if lack of computer use affects work or school productivity.

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    References

    Chien, Tien-Chen. “Factors Influencing Computer Anxiety and its Impact on E-Learning Effectiveness: A Review of Literature." iedweb.sdsu.edu/lduesbery/edld/documents/resources/computer_anxiety_lit_synth.pdf

    Hudiburg, Richard A. “Assessing and Managing Technostress." www.una.edu/psychology/alatalk.htm