The nature of the global workplace changes quickly, and technology is simultaneously the number one driver and subject of such change. To compound the dynamic nature of these trends, the COVID pandemic has forced freshly remote workers out of their comfort zone. What may have been a job with minimal technological responsibility has now become almost 100% based on programs and software. And while new technology trends are generally welcome and seen as advancements rather than hindrances to success, a surprising number of workers have a fear of technology.
But are you one of the many professionals who desires a better work-life balance, a remote office anywhere in the world, or safety from COVID contraction? If so, you need to address the elephant in the room with regard to a fear of technology. Though you don’t need to be an expert in IT or computer programming to start a work from home career, you need to work comfortably with computers and the internet and troubleshoot your own IT issues. Here is a simple pathway to help alleviate your technophobia symptoms so that you can build a lucrative remote career.
1. Identify Your Fear
Is your fear of technology legitimate? Sure, many fears and phobias are irrational and psychological in nature. But to uncover your true fears and overcome your fears, you need to identify why you feel the way you do. Do computers or the internet bother you for a reason in particular? Or does this just stem more from a technological laggard perspective, i.e., stubbornness? Surprisingly, many experts believe that almost everyone has at least a baseline fear of technology with a 2019 study showing that some Americans feared technology use more than death. So to get to the root of the problem, consider the following terms:
- Technophobia is a fear of technologies, but more specifically new technologies. Typically, this is far more common in those 40 or older, as well as in individuals forced to use technology with little warning or training (recently, as a result of COVID). This fear of technology can manifest itself in a number of ways, ranging from anger to panic and dread. Furthermore, technophobes will often have such reluctance or avoidance of technology that the fear can negatively impact both their personal and work life.
- Cyberphobia is a more specific form of technophobia that refers to a fear of computers and the internet. Although more common in older individuals, cyberphobia can affect those who must use computers and the internet beyond their comfort level. Interestingly, the reasons for cyberphobia are the result of numerous events, including media sensationalism regarding hacks and cybercrime, the belief that new technology is unnecessary (a “we survived without it” mentality), or feelings of incompetence with regard to computers or the internet.
- Technological aversion or technological apprehension is less of an irrational fear and more centered on an inferiority complex. Because some people tend to grasp tech more readily than others, some individuals are left behind. This can lead to a strong aversion to using technology, regardless of the person’s true or self-perceived proficiency.
Although often associated with generational differences, these fears aren’t necessarily related to age. Keep in mind that technophobia and cyberphobia are real fears with very little research behind them, especially due to their relative infancy in psychological journals and studies. As a result, diagnosis isn’t always easy. But if you’re having a noticeable fear of technology that interferes with other aspects of your life, you may want to schedule an appointment with a mental health professional.
Education Is the Best Way to Overcome a Fear of Technology
Are you afraid of your computer getting hacked, your information getting stolen, or organizations tracking your personal data? If so, then you need to put your information security hardhat on and educate yourself on how to avoid threats, mitigate risks, and recover from attacks. It’s just like taking any other security precaution, such as financial security, home security, or business asset security.
However, even when you set up your protection systems, you can’t control everything out there in cyberspace. Even big business and government can’t adequately protect themselves all the time because technology is everchanging and hackers are always finding new ways to sneak into systems. Remember the Equifax, Yahoo, and Target debacles? How about the NSA leaks and voter records exposure?
Aside from offering your personal information and connecting to vulnerable organizations, you’re most likely to experience a direct cyber-attack by downloading a spam email attachment, visiting an unsecured website, or connecting to a public Wi-Fi network in a coffee shop. However, you can prevent such attacks and mitigate their effects by educating yourself on basic technology concepts.
Therefore, your next major hurdle is to overcome your fear of not understanding technology. The more you know, the more confident you will feel.
2. Dissolve the Mystery
People often fear computers and the Internet because a majority of the processing is invisible. When you can’t see gears moving, liquid flowing, or wheels spinning, making sense of what’s going on proves difficult. Subsequently, you tend to feel a lack of control, which can make you feel insecure, especially when problems arise.
Think of it like car trouble. If you know nothing about auto mechanics, and your dashboard lights start flashing and dinging while you’re driving, you may feel anxious because you’re not sure what the indicators mean. So, you hastily take your car to the nearest mechanic to assess the dinging and fix whatever’s broken. However, if you understand how a car generally works, you can interpret the indicator lights, gauge the severity of the alarms, and take more appropriate action.
The same goes for computers and the Internet. Once you understand the general process of how a computer and the Internet works, then you can interpret what’s going on. For example, if a software program crashes, a webpage doesn’t load, or a file doesn’t save to the expected location, you can troubleshoot the issue on your own with less anxiety.
3. Get Excited
Transform your fear into positive energy and get excited about learning something new. Technology skills make you more marketable in the workforce and help make daily life simpler and more efficient. See the benefits of technology and how learning a few tricks can keep you up with the times and expand your potential. Plus, technology makes the telecommuting lifestyle possible.
When you embrace technology and start working from home, you subsequently:
- Spend less idle time in traffic
- Save money on regular expenses like gas, car maintenance, lunch, and coffee
- Spend more time with family, friends, and neighbors
- Have more time to relax, travel, or fulfill other interests and passions
Instead of fearing what you don’t know, get curious about the types of tools you need to set up a home office and achieve a better work-life balance. Let the freedom and flexibility that telecommuting provides be your motivation to conquer your fears and succeed.
4. Learn the Language
The tech industry has its own language, just as the healthcare, finance, and defense industries have their own languages. Grab a book on technology terms from the library or browse the web for an online tech dictionary. Look up unfamiliar words and phrases as you come across them and consider how they apply to your daily tech experiences. Start with terms like:
- Web Application
- Cloud Computing
- Remote Connection
- Operating system
Keep trusted resources handy when you read descriptions in the Virtual Vocations Job Database so that you fully understand what employers expect.
When you feel overwhelmed, take a step back. Technology terms aren’t inherently complicated—it’s your fear of technology that makes them complicated. So, break definitions down into smaller components. Look up diagrams that help illustrate how the terms are connected. Try writing definitions in your own words and thinking of analogies to solidify your understanding.
As you build your vocabulary, use more tech terms in your normal speech and internal monologue. For example, when opening an application on your computer or searching for information on the Internet, try using whatever terminology you know to describe the process. Just like learning a foreign language, the more you use the terms in your daily life, the more fluent you’ll become.
5. Take a Class
If you’re a newbie to technology, consider taking classes until you’re comfortable finding information or troubleshooting on your own. Basic tech classes let you ask specific questions, get one-on-one help, and meet other people who share your concerns, even in a virtual forum due to COVID. Depending on your level of proficiency (or lack thereof), consider one of these classes.
- Udemy or Coursera for a wide range of classes from beginner to intermediate
- A local community college
- Microsoft Learn
- Alison.com for more in-depth IT information
When you build a solid foundation, sign up for online classes to supplement and advance your learning. Most online classes are self-paced so that you can take them anytime and anywhere on a computer or mobile device with either an Internet or data connection.
From a business or professional perspective, remember that nearly every type of commonly used software or program offers learning modules or “virtual academies” to bring you up to speed.
6. Forget Your Age
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that by 2024, the number of workers 55 and older will balloon by somewhere between 55% and 86%. The reasons for this increase are due to a variety of reasons:
- Longer working age due to white-collar jobs vs. blue-collar jobs
- Waiting longer to take Social Security
- Improved health over prior generations
- Liking their job while also maintaining top earning power
Unfortunately, many workers in this age group aren’t as comfortable with computers or the Internet as their millennial colleagues. Furthermore, experienced workers lose confidence as they age, especially as younger generations surpass their technology-related capabilities.
Feeling intimidated by a younger workforce who effortlessly clicks and scrolls on handheld devices is common. However, your age says nothing about your ability to learn and use new technology successfully. Instead, your willingness to learn and apply knowledge determines your success.
Avoid the temptation to blame your age for your technological shortcomings. Instead, commit to continued education so that you can fulfill your personal and professional goals.
7. Grab a Buddy
You’re not the only person in the world with technology fears. It’s likely that a friend, neighbor, or co-worker is in the same boat. Ask around to see if anyone is interested in learning new tech skills and wants to join you in a class. A familiar face in the classroom can ease your anxiety and provide emotional support.
You can also take online classes with a friend to help stay on track and deepen your understanding. Divide up the lessons, teach each other the highlights, share tips, and practice speaking to each other in tech terms. If no one wants to lock arms and join you, online classrooms often have discussion boards and mentors that can provide support and one-on-one guidance.
8. Stay Current
Throughout your studies and career, research a few technology blogs and bookmark them in your web browser. Subscribe to their email newsletters and read through their latest articles. You don’t have to know every single piece of technology on the market or every single trend. Just get a general sense of the types of applications that professionals in your industry use and any new tech advancements that may affect your line of work. Staying up to date will help you feel more confident when applying for telecommute jobs.
Don’t Let Fear of Technology Destroy Your Career Aspirations
So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is…fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.– Franklin D. Roosevelt
So perhaps Roosevelt’s comments on fear are slightly sensationalized with regard to technophobia and the basic fear of technology. But the point remains: odds are that your greatest enemy to overcome your fear of technology is yourself. But a willingness to succeed and comprehend is the first step toward technological proficiency. And in a COVID-era world, the future of work seems more firmly planted in the virtual space—one you’ll have to understand to build a successful work from home career. Remember that remote work is rewarding and provides an opportunity to earn more freedom, advancement, and fulfillment in life. Plus, the work-at-home lifestyle isn’t just for millennials or IT professionals.
Resist the urge to settle for the status quo or let your age and current knowledge dictate your future. Instead, boldly face your technology fears, build a new arsenal of knowledge and experience, and launch your remote career into cyberspace.
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