Computer Anxiety Is Modernity’s Newest Phobia

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During the late 1990’s, American psychologists announced that a new psychological ailment was beginning to make its presence known amidst late 20th century peoples. According to these psychologists, computer anxiety, or “computerphobia” could be added to the other lists of common phobias already recognised by the mental health profession, such as the fear of spiders and heights.

This wasn’t the first time that modern technology has created a new class of fears. Before aeroplanes, we rarely heard about the fear of flying. Skyscrapers gave new meaning to the fear of heights. Advancements in modern engineering have made it necessary for comparatively advanced mathematics to be taught at even the earliest grades of school, giving rise to “maths phobia.” Now, computer anxiety has joined these now-venerable psychological disorders of modernity. Computer anxiety promises to be one of the first truly twenty-first century disorders.

Computer anxiety is more serious than it sounds. Certainly, everyone is a little bit apprehensive about doing unfamiliar things with computers. Most people would be alarmed by the prospect of programming in assembly language, or even turning on a UNIVAC. More than that, there are still many people out there who are unfamiliar with, and thus uncomfortable using, even simple modern-day desktop computers. Many of these people even say, jokingly, “Oh, I am computer-phobic.” However, this is not true, pathological computer anxiety, as some psychologists are starting to define it.

People who suffer from computer anxiety, according to some psychologists, tend to panic and “shut down” completely when faced with the prospect of using a computer. Their perception of themselves as “bad at computers” is so ingrained that their minds instinctively draw a blank whenever they are put in a situation where they need to use computers. Embarrassment and fear of social ostracism compound computer phobics’ perception of their inadequacy.

As a result, when presented with a computer, these individuals experience a deep anxiety, comparable to many other types of pathological anxiety–such as extreme stage fright, or fear of talking to other people. Often, one negative experience with a computer is enough to make someone who is already doubtful about his or her computer competency into a true computer phobic.

Fortunately, there are many ways to get over computer anxiety. There is a way for even the most anxious computer phobics to learn the ever-more indispensable life skill of operating a personal computer. Pedagogues who teach computer classes are starting to take computer anxiety into account. They are starting to use the same techniques teachers have been using for years to teach mathematics to reluctant learners.

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