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Causes of Technophobia: Why Some People Refuse to Learn About Computers

June 5th, 2007

technophobia.jpgAlthough it may seem difficult for some of us to believe, even in the 21st century there are many people who still refuse to learn how to use a computer. Interestingly, many of these people are writers, publishers, journalists, or music composers, for whom one might think that a computer would be very useful. Author Gore Vidal, for instance, not only does not use a computer, but apparently he also does not even use a typewriter. Instead, he sends his handwritten manuscripts to a typist in another country, who then sends them to a publisher.

These “technophobes” give various reasons for why they do not use computers, but the primary reason for many of them is that they have never been convinced of the usefulness of these powerful machines. Because they remain uninformed about the computer’s true potential, they see no need to change their old ways. In some cases, these people will eventually become computer literate if someone gives them some good instruction and is able to demonstrate to them the benefits of the various aspects of using a computer. Until that happens, however, most of these people will remain stuck in the modern version of the Dark Ages.

Many people understand that their lives would probably be easier if they learned about computers, but they are slow to obtain this knowledge because of their own laziness, or perhaps because they are a little stubborn. For them, having to learn about a field of knowledge that is entirely new to them seems time consuming and cumbersome, and they see it as a disruption to their personal comfort level. They will often give many excuses for not learning about computers, such as not having enough money to purchase one, or not having enough physical space in their apartments. These people are able to discover the new technology easily enough once they are able to overcome their own inertia and apply at least a small amount of personal effort in this direction. Sometimes these people are forced to procure a rudimentary knowledge about computers because it has become essential in order to advance in their particular occupation.

Other people resist learning about computers because they have had some kind of negative experience when they were first exposed to them. For many people, first impressions are very important, and if their first experience with a computer is a bad one, they will often develop a mental block or even a full-blown phobia that prevents them from learning about computers in the future. This is often the result of poor initial training. The person who first introduced them to computers may have pushed the right buttons for them, but these prospective students never really learned how to operate a computer on their own. When such people later attempt to use a computer without help for the first time, they will sometimes experience unfavorable events that they do not understand. For example, they may receive error messages after trying to boot up the computer, or worse yet, someone else will turn the computer on for them and get them started on writing a long paper, only to have them lose much of their work due to a crash-to-desktop or a power failure. It is not uncommon for such people to become so frustrated with these kinds of experiences that they develop negative attitudes toward computers that are difficult to overcome.

Finally, at the extreme end of the technophobia spectrum, there is a small percentage of the population that not only refuses to learn about computers, but also actively resists technology in general. They are sometimes referred to as “modern day Luddites” and their motives are often political. The reasons that such people give for opposing technology vary. Some of them are radical environmentalists who see computers as just another tool for industrialized nations and large corporations to wreak havoc on the environment. Others are opposed to the whole idea of capitalism, so they despise large computer companies like Microsoft and resist the technology in order to make a kind of political statement. Still others, such as the infamous Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski, do not seem to like the modern world much at all, and would instead prefer to live in a kind of paleolithic utopia in which industrialized society collapses upon itself and we are all forced to return to nature. Needless to say, it is very unlikely that these kinds of people are going to learn about computers anytime in the near future.

For most people, however, learning about computers is simply a matter of overcoming their natural resistance to change and understanding the benefits of this modern technology. If possible, it is often helpful for people who are apprehensive about learning how to use a computer to receive personal tutoring from someone who has the patience to teach them the basic concepts, yet is willing to allow students to obtain enough hands-on experience so that they do not need to constantly rely on others for assistance. Once people are able to get past the initial technophobia stage, many of them will be able to readily understand the benefits of using a computer, at which point they will often seek out more information about them on their own initiative.

2 Responses to “Causes of Technophobia: Why Some People Refuse to Learn About Computers”

  1. comment number 1 by: Mom

    Very good observations! It always amazes me why people aren’t at least curious enough to try learning something new. I also am offended when I read others comment on the resistance of the ‘older’ generation to adapt to the computer age…ah….excuse me??

  2. comment number 2 by: Brakna

    I come from a family where everybody but me and my sister are technophobes. My parents are now seniors and they are definitely technophobes. They fear using the Internet & email, cell phones, DVD’s, digital cameras, etc. Both of them give their own excuses why they can’t take an intro to computers course offered by the local senior center or public library. Even my college-educated 50 year old brother fears technology too. He does use a cell phone but beyond that he knows no other technologies. I feel they are all stuck in a time warp like 1980. I promise that when I’m 80 years old I’m going to keep pushing myself to learning and growing and be open-minded towards new technologies.

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