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How Common is the Fear of Technology?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2016
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A fear of technology may refer to varying levels of unease with many different types of technology. It's fairly common for many people to have some degree of discomfort with certain technological advances that are unfamiliar. Alternately, this term can mean technophobia, which has a couple of definitions. Some people are nervous when using new technological products, especially to perform jobs they have done in other ways in the past; many teachers exhibit this form of technophobia when they integrate new technologies in the classroom. Technophobia can also be defined as a rare, irrational fear of technology that creates significant anxiety and avoidance.

Many historians trace generalized fear of technology to the Industrial Revolution, and there was good reason for anxiety to be expressed during this time. Increasing automation of factory processes depersonalized workers and reduced the number of jobs. Technology had a real and profound effect on the living status of many, while it also improved some working conditions.

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It’s possible to trace an underlying fear of technology in cultural products like literature and film. From books like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein to films like The Matrix and Avatar, it’s quite evident that people have a minor to significant fear about how technology might create disaster and dystopia. The enduring popularity of themes where exploitation of technological advancement is dangerous or devastating expresses that many people feel a vague unease about continued technological discoveries or use. This doesn’t mean most people are willing to part with the latest technology they possess, but it suggests that an undercurrent of fear about this topic exists culturally.

Another type of fear of technology exists when people must learn new technologies to continue to stay competitive at work. The example of teachers is useful since many teachers regularly learn new computer systems or applications for use in classrooms. Some teachers embrace this new learning, but others exhibit fear of technology and feel understandably anxious. This doesn’t mean they can’t learn new applications, but those who can address this fear and offer a supportive learning environment best conduct training for technophobes of this type.

True technophobia, which creates an extremely anxious response to technology, is not common. Most people may have a tiny amount of fear about learning something new but it is not a true phobia and doesn’t become disabling. With a real phobia, an anxious response can be so heightened that people might have to avoid certain forms of technology. In most cases, a person with technophobia doesn’t avoid or fear all technology. For instance, the true technophobe might watch television, and use a microwave, but could avoid computers and cellphones; extent of the fear may vary.

Most people probably have a minor fear of technology gone awry. A greater fear is sometimes present in those who must quickly learn something new for continued work. On the other hand, an overwhelming, disabling fear only affects a tiny percentage of people.

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pleonasm
Post 3

@Iluviaporos - I hate to be cynical, but I suspect most people are afraid of technology because they are afraid of looking like a fool. People who don't understand that computers are really made to be as consumer friendly as possible could worry that they are going to break this expensive thing or embarrass themselves in front of family. I don't think they really worry that much about larger consequences, because they don't know enough to worry.

lluviaporos
Post 2

@umbra21 - I know that people like to define technology as being anything that happens to be a tool but the popular definition tends to surround things like computers and machines. And, frankly, they are pretty scary. I have a healthy respect for every kind of machine, even something as common as cars, because they can easily kill me. And computers are very powerful things. If you don't understand how the internet works and all you've ever seen on the news is bad reports about people being hacked or ripped off, you might be scared about it as well.

And I'm sure there are people who have actually thought it through and think they have a rational reason to be afraid of technology. It does tend to make people dependent on and vulnerable to a central government, for example, which doesn't appeal to everyone.

umbra21
Post 1
I think true fear of technology isn't common because technology isn't really one thing. I mean, would that result in someone being afraid of light switches and cars, or only computers and laptops?

I think fear usually stems from a lack of understanding and if you don't understand how computers work, or how to use them, then you might think they are fairly mysterious and scary. But the same person who thinks that will think nothing of turning on a lamp, even though they don't really understand how electricity works either.

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