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Urban Anxieties and Technostress|Technostress|Technostress

Health & Wellness

Poison in Paradise: Urban Anxieties and Technostress

Our modern technological paradise has ushered in an era of unparalleled convenience, unimaginable technological power, unlimited access to data and information, and uninterrupted communication with individuals around the world.

It only takes a search query to learn about pinnacles of technological innovations and resolutions too so many questions. However, the irony is that the list of human problems only get longer despite all the technological power we attain.

Far from being the intellectual utopia we all imagined a world with instant access to unlimited information would be, the environment we live in today has resulted in increased levels of stress and anxiety that has become labeled collectively as “technostress.”

Technostress The “Techno” Behind Technostress

The last few decades of human history have been the most eventful in terms of human scientific and technological advances. In the last couple of decades, human life has been changed by innovations that had previously existed only in the imagination of science fiction writers.

The advancements that have had the largest effects on human lives include computers, satellite networks, the internet, and mobile devices—all considered Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

The most remarkable aspect of the current innovations is the sheer magnitude of the changes which have been ushered in such a short period of time.

When looking over the timeline of human innovation and invention, we see epochs that have been dominated by a handful of key advancements. The Medieval Ages were dominated by the invention of the printing press, gunpowder, and optics, and lasted about 330 years, culminating in the Renaissance.

This was followed by the Industrial Revolution which lasted 150 years and was dominated by the use of steam power. The successive ages of technological advance would be shorter and dominated by innovations of greater significance.

The Age of Information lasted only two years between 1994 and 1996, culminating in the creation of the Internet. During the last 20 years or so, advances have been made very quickly. Even before your state-of-the-art laptop or cell phone arrives in the mail, the next six models are already in production. 1

What is “Technostress?”

Stress is a broad term with a definition that has been somewhat confused because of its frequent use in popular culture. Undeniably, stress and anxiety are currently two common conditions, and establishing a definition for “stress” is the first step to understanding the many underlying causes of technostress.

The term “stress” is considered the impairment of physiological and psychological function in a manner that negatively affects the individual’s well-being. A broader definition defines stress as a non-specific reaction common in the human body to any number of relative circumstances. 2

No matter how it is defined, stress is best identified by its effects. Stress can compromise productivity, create friction in otherwise good relationships, and begin to sap the mind and body of health and functionality. After a considerable amount of time is spent in a stressful environment, it is not uncommon for individuals to derive little pleasure from their recreational, social, or professional lives.

The medical effects of stress and the stress hormone, cortisol, have been well-documented in clinical studies. Cortisol is released into the blood to improve energy efficiency during the “fight-or-flight” response, but it is an irritant that interferes with many natural processes when produced in excess. Elevated cortisol levels can interfere with learning and memory, decrease immune system function, and increase weight gain, blood pressure, and cholesterol. 3

Technostress is a subcategory of stress that has been defined as the stress directly or indirectly caused by the use of technology. Today, technostress is a well-documented condition characterized by an extraordinary difficulty of adapting to the fast pace of technological advancements that affect our lives. 4

Technostress is sometimes confused with techno-anxiety, and the terms are often used interchangeably, but they are different. Techno-anxiety is a symptom of technostress and describes a specific condition. The symptoms associated with techno-anxiety can be more drastic, including headaches, feelings of helplessness, backaches, panic, and nightmares.

Symptoms of Technostress Technostress

The onset of technostress can be experienced through the appearance of panic attacks, mental fatigue, technophobia, perfectionism, and a low tolerance for inconveniences. Many times, these symptoms will be allowed to continue or addressed with temporary fixes until they begin to sap productivity and creative thinking. 5

Techno-anxiety is another symptom of technostress that begins as headaches, joint aches, and insomnia after operating laptops, mobile devices, or tablets for any amount of time.

Additionally, working on screens late at night can result in increased fatigue and decreased engagement during the day because the blue screens on computers and cell phones have been shown to disrupt natural sleep patterns.

Causes of Technostress

Environmental Factors

The use of technology can be tedious and detailed, and if the environment is not set for optimal work, stress and frustrations can easily ensue. This includes equipment that is not suitable for the work at hand, the risk of lost data, or even minor compatibility issues. Additional environmental stressors include an overworked staff or understaffed workplace, or a lack of sufficient training with the technology provided.

Individual Factors

Additionally, an individual’s own inexperience with computers or technology could be a primary cause for technostress. This includes having a fear of technology or computer-related jargon or the feeling of “information overload”—being overwhelmed by the amount of information that the technological device provides within a short period of time.

Taking Work Home

As connectivity becomes more interconnected, it becomes easier for individuals to take their work home with them, blurring the line between work and home-related stress. This can lead to increased burnout, exhaustion, and cynicism. 6

Solutions to Technostress

Experts agree that the first step to addressing any problem would be recognizing the problem exists. Once you see that technology provides a range of benefits, but may also have some negative effects, it will be easier to find a solution. This includes keeping your distance from mobile devices when not at work and being mindful about spending time away from technology rather than constantly glued to it.

Some strategies for making this easier include exercising or picking up a new hobby that doesn’t involve technology. Implementing these changes in daily life can minimize the effects of technostress, and allow individuals to experience technology for its benefits while minimizing its repercussions.

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