Techno-stress: the new psychopathology of the “digital age”

The bursting into our lives of technologies in the form of computers, the Internet, smartphones, tablets … has caused social, cultural and economic changes that have affected many people. No one can doubt the benefits of technology, and its use can be very useful as it allows us to be in constant contact with almost every corner of the planet. New technologies offer us new ways of connecting and communicating and facilitating access to information in record time, as well as offering us new leisure opportunities.

But all is not so beautiful: experts have been alerting us for decades to the risks of technology misuse. For two decades, psychologists have named new disorders that have arisen in the information age (also called the digital age or the computer age), such as FOMO syndrome, nomophobia and Techno-stress. We will talk about the latter in today’s article.

What is techno-stress?

The concept of techno-stress is directly related to negative effects of using technology.

It was baptized by American psychiatrist Craig Brod in 1984 in his book Technostress: The Human Cost of the Computer Revolution, which first defined this phenomenon as “an adaptive disease caused by a lack of ability to cope with new technologies. computing in a healthy way. “.

In 1997, the word techno-stress became popular thanks to a book by Larry Rosen and Michelle Well titled Technostress: Dealing with Technology @Work @Home @Play. The authors define techno-stress as “any negative impact (direct and / or indirect) of technology on the attitudes, thoughts, behaviors or physiology of an individual’s body”. For them, the most common and documented form of this phenomenon is overinformation, known as poisoning.

But the two definitions were not very specific until Marisa Salanova, professor of psychology at the Universitat Jaume I in Castellón, defined techno-stress as follows: “Techno-stress is a negative psychological state which is linked to the use of information and communication technologies or the threat of its use in the future This condition is conditioned by the perception of a discrepancy between the demands and the resources linked to the use of ICT which causes a high level of psychophysiological activation, discomfort and the development of negative attitudes towards ICT “.

Techno-stress is a problem for businesses

Although techno-stress affects all areas of life, the most attention has been paid to this phenomenon in the work environment. Salanova’s vision of techno-stress is linked to the “demand-resource” paradigm that has dominated the organizational landscape in recent decades. It is in the world of work, and more particularly in occupational risk prevention services, that this phenomenon is starting to be taken seriously.

Being connected to the computer at work all day, looking at the cell phone every 5 minutes, coming home and staying connected to the tablet while watching TV … does that sound like you? If you feel identified, you are not the only one: we spend 24 hours a day addicted to new technologies.

This situation is what causes techno-stress, and according to a recent study by the UOC (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) techno-stress “will become a new occupational risk, as new forms of work (such as telework) and ubiquity induced for Information and communication technologies (ICT) can cause feelings of incapacity, backwardness or dependence in the worker “.

Antonio Cano, president of the Spanish Society for the Study of Anxiety and Stress (SEAS) insists that individuals must be educated, because the misuse of ICT can lead to problems such as nervousness and l ‘anxiety.

According to data collected as part of the national survey on working conditions carried out in 2011, 25% of workers feel overwhelmed by their work. mostly this discomfort is caused by a fast pace of work, with pressure on deadlines and simultaneous management of tasks, all, Factors related to new technologies. The workers most exposed to technological change, information overload and speed (workers in sectors such as communication, finance, administration or science and technology) are those who suffer the most from technological stress.

Types of techno-stress

As with stress, techno-stress is a complex phenomenon with different symptoms. According to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Hygiene in Spain, there are different types of techno-stress. We tell you below.

Techno-anxiety

the techno-anxiety it is the most common type of techno-stress. The person who suffers from it usually experiences high levels of physiological activation which causes them discomfort. Tension and unpleasant feeling are a feature of the current and future use of new technologies.

Some people develop an irrational fear of new technologies, which is called technophobia. Symptoms of technophobia are: avoiding technology (even when avoiding talking about it), anxiety about the presence of technology, and hostile and aggressive thoughts towards it.

Technofatiga

the technopathy it is similar to burnout syndrome, as it is characterized by negative feelings such as fatigue, mental fatigue or cognitive exhaustion due to continued use of new technologies. It can also manifest itself in skeptical attitudes and beliefs of ineffectiveness in the use of ICT.

Some authors speak of a specific type of technofatigue: information fatigue syndrome. It is a product of the excessive exposure, consumption and manipulation of information.

Technoaddiction

the technoaddiction it is characterized by the uncontrollable desire to be connected to ICT at all times. This behavior causes discomfort and deterioration in the life of the individual.

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