Man vs. Machine; Advancing Technology Feeds Fears about Control

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), July 15, 2004 | Go to article overview
Save to active project

Man vs. Machine; Advancing Technology Feeds Fears about Control

Byline: Shelley Widhalm, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

David Kupfer, an independent psychologist who has a doctorate in clinical psychology, just ended a two-year period of hanging up on people.

Mr. Kupfer was not trying to be rude. Instead, he admits, he is a bit of a technophobe, "relatively uneducated about a lot of technology, whether it's a computer or a cell phone," he says.

His habit of hang-ups was triggered by the call-waiting feature on his cellular phone. He only recently read the phone's manual to learn how to switch between two callers.

"A lot of technophobes fear a loss of control. I'm one of them," says Mr. Kupfer, who has a practice in Falls Church.

Technophobia, a generalized fear of technology, is not recognized in the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. The DSM, used by psychiatrists and psychologists, describes phobias as a type of anxiety. The response is one of terror, dread or panic when the feared object, situation or activity is encountered, the association says.

A few local psychologists and college instructors consider technophobia to be a true phobia, while others insist it is an attitude or belief. Either way, the information technology and computer industries are making technology easier to use.

According to Kathy Hogan Bruen, who holds a doctorate in clinical psychology and is the senior director of prevention for the National Mental Health Association, a phobia is a persistent, excessive and unreasonable fear brought on by the presence of or thoughts about the source of the fear. Exposure to the source can cause an immediate anxiety response, an urgent sense of needing to get out of the situation or a panic attack, she says.

Technophobia occurs when people fear interacting with a new technology. Technophobes can worry, fear loss of control and experience physical agitation, such as muscle tension, rapid heart rate and sweating, Mr. Kupfer says.

"The presence of anxiety would be the difference between fearing and not liking technology," he says.

Technophobes may be afraid of breaking what they are using or doing something wrong and looking stupid, says Dianne Martin, professor of computer science at George Washington University in Northwest. She holds a doctorate in education.

Clinical psychologist Michael Jolkovski, however, doubts that technophobia is a clinical disorder involving a phobic response to technology, except possibly in the cases of guns or airplanes, he says.

"I just haven't seen cases where anxiety of technology was impeding somebody's life or career," says Mr. Jolkovski, who holds a doctorate in counseling psychology. He has an independent practice in Falls Church and is a member of the clinical faculty at the GWU Center for Professional Psychology.

Instead, a person may feel anxious about using technology, have performance anxiety and fear mastering it or be mistrustful and suspicious of it, Mr. Jolkovski says.

"A person with a true-blue phobia feels as though they cannot face the feared thing, or can do so only at the cost of suffering debilitating levels of panic or anxiety," he says. "Technophobia refers to attitudes of fear or suspicion toward technology held by an individual or culture."

The Luddites of the Industrial Revolution are an example. In the early 19th century, they feared new machines would displace workers, but they did not fear the actual machines. As such, weavers from Europe rejected equipment that allowed factories to mass-produce products inferior in quality to their handmade products.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this article

Cited article

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited article

Man vs. Machine; Advancing Technology Feeds Fears about Control


Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?