Are You a Technophobe?

A man who has technophobia

If you’ve never heard of technophobia, the following statements  might you give a clue. If you or anyone you know says things like this, read on :

“My computer is the bane of my existence.”

“I’d like to throw the darn thing out the window.”

“I don’t know a computer from a piece of cardboard.”

“I get panic stricken when something doesn’t work right.”

“If my grandkids want to communicate with me, they can just pick up the phone.”

What is Technophobia?

Did you know that technophobia is a disorder that can actually cause physical symptoms? While most of us probably suffer from this to some degree, we often manage by gradually picking up new skills or just sticking with the technologies we’re comfortable with. But for some people, the phobia is quite crippling and actually limits their ability to function in day-to-day life.

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines technophobia as the “fear or dislike of advanced technology or complex devices and especially computers.” Advanced Technology can refer to using a computer or tablet, getting on the Internet, using a Smartphone, or using any other recent technologies.

Some of the physical symptoms of the disorder including, rapid heartbeat, trembling, shortness of breath, or feelings of dread or panic. Other symptoms can be:

  • Constantly thinking about technology
  • A reluctance to use technical devices and automated processes
  • Preferring to do things “the old way.”
  • Criticizing technological changes and updated systems
  • Saying things such as, “I have made it this far without technology. Why do I need it now?”

What Causes Technophobia and Why Does it Matter?

Technophobes often get stuck a basic contradiction of technology: while it’s supposed to simplify our lives, the effort of mastering it doesn’t seem to make it worthwhile. In addition to this, using technologies often involves a number of steps. The user may take the first few steps but then always gets stuck at some point, which makes it seem as though it’s not worth the effort. Somewhere along the line the users may become panic stricken or overwhelmed, which may cause them to simply give up.

Technophobia is sometimes related to a long-standing anxiety about science or math. Folks who are uncomfortable with these subjects may view technical devices as an extension of those dreaded topics and thus feel intimidated by the prospect of using them.

Another problem is that the advances and changes in technology take place at such a fast pace that people get discouraged at the prospect of trying to stay current.

One of the most common complaints I hear is from people who have made an effort to learn a new technology. But the people who try to help them – store clerks or maybe their grandkids – go through the steps so fast that the user isn’t able to practice or comprehend the steps.

Another one is that devices don’t come with a manual. This leaves the buyer feeling lost and confused and wishing they had never bought the device.

But when they avoid using new technologies they end up cutting themselves off from friends and family and the activities of daily life.

Overcoming the Fear of Technology

Here are some steps for overcoming technophobia:

1) Realize that many of us suffer from it in varying degrees and that it is not a shortcoming; it is just another life skill to work on.

2) Make a commitment to rise above it. Learning any new skill requires a period of feeling awkward and inept, but if a person who commits to staying with it can gradually master the skills to become more confident.

3) Think of the learning process as an adventure. Start with something basic and enjoyable, such as playing solitaire, then gradually try other gadgets and more advanced tasks.

4) Find out how you learn best – is it through videos, one-on-one instruction, your grandkids, private tutors? You might find that the information sticks best if you use a combination of these methods.

5) Remember that adopting technology is like learning to walk. First you master crawling, then you take a few wobbly steps, and before you know it you’re running a marathon!

6) Use repetition. If you’re learning to play tennis, you practice the ground stroke thousands of times before you are able to master it.

7) Remember that learning any new discipline is a matter of building a knowledge base and making neuronal connections in your brain.

8) Read, study, learn. Here are a couple of articles to start with:

Summing Up

Did you know that when people were afraid of the printing press when it was introduced? They feared having their words make permanent! In turn, there was a lot of skepticism about cameras and televions. Resistance to new technology is a natural part of our evolution as humans.

It’s clear now that the digital revolution is here to stay, and you might as well jump on the train and enjoy the ride!

Six Reasons to Hire a Computer Tutor

Cartoon image of man punching his desktop
One reason to hire a computer tutor

“Why should I hire a computer tutor” people often ask. Most of us have plenty of other uses for our money and feel that since we’ve already spent a bundle on our devices, we shouldn’t need to add yet another cost.

You might be one of the many people who can function adequately on your computer: You can search the Internet, create a Word document, take photos, and send an e-mail. Maybe you even have a Facebook account and enjoy adding posts to your page and seeing what your friends and family members are up to.

But you might also have a desktop full of random icons, thousands of files that have no real value because you aren’t able to find them when you need them, and you might be using outmoded software programs.

While it’s true that more and more people are using electronic devices, it’s also true that the bar keeps moving higher. The growing volume and complexity of devices hampers a lot of folks from keeping their skills current. If this sounds like you, here’s why it would be a good idea to hire a computer tutor and upgrade your skills.

1) Save time by being more efficient

Here are some ways you can improve efficiency:

  • create an efficient file management system so you can quickly access the files you need
  • discover new programs and tools to streamline your operation
  • learn ways to improve your search techniques, use keyboard shortcuts, and do targeted searches

2) Learn to solve problems on your own

Did you know that with a little bit of knowledge you can resolve a lot of technical snags on your own? This can save time and frustration AND save you the expense of calling a high-priced technician. As your skills improve, you’ll find that you’re quickly able to resolve obstacles that used to make you pull your hair out.

3) Prevent problems

You can save all kinds of time by learning to properly maintain your devices. This includes installing updates regularly, using trustworthy software, and keeping your digital files to manageable levels.

4) Change your relationship with your computer

We’ve all seen the reverence with which younger users treat their devices. For them, the device is a personal assistant they wouldn’t think of being without. It is constantly at their side and they comfortably use it for a whole host of tasks.

If you see your computer as a foe, time and training can turn that foe into a friend. For me, learning to use a digital device is a lot like learning to play a musical instrument. Starting out, it’s frustrating when you’re not instantly able to knock out your favorite tune. But as you study and practice, you find the satisfaction of producing an actual tune and   eventually feel the exquisite joy of mastery.

5) Get full use of your device

Most of us now have cell phones. Have you considered that just this one tiny device replaces all the following physical items?

radio stereo/CD player newspaper
calculator dictionary library
camera encyclopedia typewriter
TV calendar credit card

When you consider that your device actually contains multiple tools, maybe it makes more sense to hire a computer tutor so you can take advantage of all of its capabilities.

6) And finally …

Feel the sense of achievement and belonging that comes from being connected in today’s digital world. Being computer literate can help you be an informed member of the community, thus helping you stay socially connected and a vital part of today’s ever-changing world.

New Technologies: Why Do I Care?

Photo of a 3D Printer
3D Printer

In an earlier blog (, I defined and discussed digital literacy. Its definition is “the ability to use information and communication technologies to find, evaluate, create, and communicate information, requiring both cognitive and technical skills.” The digitally literate person “uses these skills to actively participate in civic society and contribute to a vibrant, informed, and engaged community.”

Of course, one facet of being digitally literate is the ability to use digital devices such as computers, tablets, and cell phones, as discussed in previous blogs. But another facet of digital literacy, I believe, is becoming familiar with the broader and ever-evolving uses of digital technology.

The assortment of new technologies is vast and ever-changing. Some of the more common ones are 3D printing, 4D printing, and the Internet of Things. The implementation of these technologies is revolutionizing the fields of space exploration, medical devices, and sustainable living, among others.

3D Printing

The Oxford Dictionary defines 3D printing as: “A process for making a physical object from a three-dimensional digital model, typically by laying down many successive thin layers of a material: if you use 3D printing for prototypes you will simply be able to go to market faster.” Using this additive process, objects can be printed from metals, ceramics, plastics and paper.

To date, the technology has been used to print everything from simple everyday objects to cars, replacement body parts, materials for spacecraft, shoes, and even food. It is also being applied by the U.S. military and NASA.

The instructions used by 3D printers are digital blueprints for creating objects. This allows a user to design an object using 3D modeling software, connect the computer to a 3D printer, and then print the item. The process is slow and may taker hours or days to complete.

Because the patterins are in a digital format, they can be uploaded and printed on a 3D printer anywhere in the world. This could be useful for travelers; instead of carrying their clothing with them on an airplane, they could send the digital instructions to their destination and have the items waiting when they arrive.

Locally, the Overland Park Resource Library has a 3D printer in a makerspace it has created for public use. The machine has even been used to print a prosthetic hand for a third grader.

4D Printing

Now let’s take a look at the mind-bending technology of 4D printing. Developed at MIT in 2013, 4D printing is a much newer and less proven technology than 3D printing. According to PC Mag, “the purpose is to make things self-assemble when exposed to air, water or heat … A more dramatic goal is to have the objects oscillate in some fashion on their own. The 4th dimension moniker refers to the self-transformation.”

4D printing builds on 3D printing but goes on to create composite materials that can transform into other shapes. The materials may have the capactiy to fold, stretch or twist. This novel technology is likely to bring about dramatic changes in construction and manufacturing. The U. S. Army is researching its potential to develop cars that can change their structure, and additional applications.

The advantage of 4D printing is that shapes can be compressed into their smallest configuration and economically produced by a 3D printer. They can then open out into a range of objects that may continue to transform.

Although 4D printing has enormous potential, the practicality of applying it remains to be seen.

The Internet of Things

Google Glass, a pair of glasses enhanced by Internet connectivity and information display
Google Glass / Pixabay

The Internet of Things, or IoT, refers to objects that are embedded and wearable and are able to send and receive data. Examples of some wearable devices are Google Glass, which offers Internet access and information display, or sunglasses with a camera in them. An embedded device is utilized in the Google Smart Contact Lens, which is expected to be able to measure blood sugar levels from the tear fluid on the surface of the eye.


As the technology progresses, it will become possible for human nerve impulses to interact with information. The devices we have today will become increasingly smaller and will gradually merge into relevant parts of the body.

Some of the applications of these wearable and embedded technologies include:

  • Sensors or chips implanted under the skin to provide medical readings
  • Apps that can remotely monitor activities within the home, such as locking or unlocking doors, pre-heating the oven, or monitoring the temperature.
  • Cities that use sensors and GPS data to improve the flow of traffic, or buildings and roadway that can send alerts when repairs are needed

As with all digital technologies, the Internet of Things will raise concerns about security, privacy, and the desire of citizens to maintain some measure of control over their own lives. Another concern is that the vast amount of data and the complexity of operating and maintaining it will cause another set of consequences.

Summing Up

If this brief look into the future of digital technology has piqued your interest, you can learn more by visiting the website links included in this blog.



Tips for Managing Your Digital Data

Ways of managing digital data
Better use of digital data might help.

In this blog, we’ll take a look at ways of managing digital data. Although technology provides us a wonderful way to condense our physical belongings and streamline our personal data, the shift to digital storage creates a paradox: The ease of storing digital files and applications can lead us to accumulate so much data that it becomes just another form of clutter.

In my work with computer users over the past year, I’ve identified four categories of users. Following is a brief description of each and some helpful resources for managing digital data.

The Basic User

These users want to keep their computer use fairly basic. They want to be able to use e-mail, create and store a few documents and photos, and maybe connect with their friends and family through Facebook or Skype. For these folks, learning how to create and organize folders and keeping unneeded digital data to a minimum would lead to the most effective use of their computer.

The Moderately Active User

This computer user has a more active digital life and enjoys the ability to accumulate and store large numbers of e-mails, documents, and media files. However, if he’s not skilled at managing digital data, he may eventually become overwhelmed by too much data, and may lack the time to organize it and delete unwanted files. This user could benefit from both digital organization skills and a willingness to limit the quantity of files downloaded in the first place.

The Active Digitizer

The active digitizer strives to convert as many of her records and belongings as possible into digital data. This might include paper items such as articles, letters, and financial documents; and digital items such as photos, music and videos. She can use a scanner to scan items and then store the digital documents in folders on the computer. She can digitize and organize financial data in programs such as Quicken, which largely eliminates the need for paper files.

The active digitizer can store and organize digital photos in programs such as iPhoto or Microsoft Photo Editor, or she can simply store them in folders on the computer. Music files can also be saved in programs such as iTunes or Windows Media Player. Since media files can easily accumulate and become a form of e-clutter, it’s important for the user to organize them carefully and limit the number she stores.

This type of active digital use must be maintained in order to be useful. Otherwise, the data can quickly get out of hand and become unmanageable.

The Digital Hoarder

The final type of user is the digital hoarder. This person will give in to the temptation to store thousands upon thousands of emails, Word documents, spreadsheets, music files, photos, computer games, movies, and TV shows. The tendency to hoard is intensified by the fact that storage capacities keep growing and online backup services provide more and more opportunities for digital storage. The problem with digital hoarding, as with other types of hoarding, is that it eventually has a negative impact on the user and limits his ability to function effectively.

This type of computer user will need to decide if he wants to expend the effort to maintain his massive data or would rather take steps to pare it down.

Now that we’ve defined the four categories of computer users, you can define the type of user you are (or want to be) and learn how to use your digital data to your best advantage. Following are some links that provide additional information and ideas.



Technology Use in Older Adults

Photo of Cell Phone
Cell Phone / Pixabay

In the past year of working with computer users over the age of 50, I’ve been fascinated and somewhat surprised by the patterns of use among this age segment.

Although it’s commonly assumed that older users are much less savvy and agile on computers than younger adults, that certainly isn’t always the case. I’ve encountered 25-year-olds who know very little about computers and 80-year-olds who are highly sophisticated users and know more about technology than I ever will.

As I researched the topic, I found that most of the available information stems from a survey of 6,000 adults conducted by the Pew Research Center in late 2013. Following are some of the findings.

Use patterns among older adults

The study found that although seniors in America (defined as adults 65 and over) are slower to adopt technology than young adults, the older group is increasingly embracing it.

Within the senior population two groups emerged. The first group, which generally included younger, more educated, or wealthier seniors, reported a higher level of technology use and a more positive view of its benefits. The other group, which included seniors who were older, less healthy, and less affluent, was found to be largely disconnected from the digital world.

The survey found that about 60 percent of older adults now use online resources, while 77 percent own a cell phone. Additionally, Internet use drops off markedly at about age 75.

Attitudes about Technology

The Pew Center findings indicate that about half of the older adults who don’t use the Internet believe they are at a disadvantage from not having access to information on the Web, while one third of that group doesn’t feel they are missing out on important information.

One factor keeping seniors from adopting new technologies is difficulty in learning them. Three quarters of older adults like to have help when learning to use new devices, while less than 20 percent feel comfortable teaching themselves. More than half of those who use the Internet indicate they would need help learning to use Facebook or Twitter.

Social networking sites are gaining popularity with seniors who use the Internet. Forty-six percent of this group now uses sites such as Facebook. This compares with the national average of 73 percent. However, among all Americans 65 and older, only 27 percent use social networking sites.

A noteworthy finding is that once seniors begin using the Internet, digital technology often becomes an integral part of their lives. This group of users strongly embraces the benefits of Internet use and believes that people lacking access are missing out on important information.

Desktop Computer
Desktop Computer

Ownership of electronic devices

Device ownership among older adults differs notably from the overall population in several specific ways:

  • Few older adults are smartphone owners. Compared to more than half the general population now using smartphones, less than 20 percent of seniors use them.
  • Among older adults, tablets and e-book readers are as popular as smartphones, but in the general public, smartphones are much more common than either tablets or e-book readers.
  • Tablets, e-book readers, and smartphones are each owned by 18 percent of older adults.

Summing Up

Despite the growing popularity of digital technology among older Americans, the group continues to fall behind younger Americans in adopting it. And many seniors are altogether disconnected from online and mobile life.

Given the growing role of technology in our lives and the contribution it makes to our social, economic and physical well being, the adoption of technology in the older segment of the population is a promising development.

However, it would be nice to see some large-scale efforts at educating older Americans so they can enjoy the connectivity so many of us are able to benefit from.

To view the complete study, click here: