Technostress

This week we discuss some downfalls of being in a society where technology now rules everything. While this might be exciting, it also presents downfalls. I remember when I started working in my social/cognitive lab back at UTEP the graduate student I was working with told me that every time I get an email from him, I had to respond to him within 24-hours. Of course, I took him too seriously and responded to him right away every time he emailed me. A habit that I still have. Every time my advisor emails me (or anyone for that matter, even the students I TA) I always have to respond to them as soon as I see their email, even if that means responding at 2 in the morning. There are many reasons for this. For one thing, I get a feeling of guilt if I read an email and do not respond because I feel as though somehow they know that I’ve read the email. Secondly, if I don’t respond to an email I have anxiety and start to just think about the email until I respond to it. Same thing happens if my advisor gives me a task to do. Even if I am running errands or shopping, if Lisa emails me to do something I drop everything I am doing to do it because if I put it off I feel anxiety.

This very thing is discussed in an article by Ayyagari, Grover, and Purvis (2011) where their aim was to develop a model of technostress – the inability to cope or deal with information and communication technologies in a healthy way, a term created by a clinical psychologist named Craig Brod – that would allow us to understand the relationship between technology and stressors that arise from it. In their article, they outline many characteristics that could make technology stressful to use.  One such characteristic is usability. Is the technology being used at a company easy to manage? Is it easy to use by anyone or do you need extra training to learn how to use the software? The authors state that because of some constraints that are placed on businesses, employees have to use the software they are given making them unable to use a software they are used to or that makes their lives easier. Secondly, there are intrusive characteristics, were work-home conflict arises. Since we have email at our fingertips, we may now no longer be able to keep our work in the office, putting a burden not just on ourselves, but our families as well. Lastly, we have dynamic characteristics which present problems such as job insecurity. With growing technology, many people’s jobs might be in danger because it might be cheaper using technology. This study was important in detangling which of these characteristics lead to stress in one’s life. Their results found that pretty much all characteristics described in the paper were significant besides the perception of technology as being an invasion of privacy (Ayyagri, Grover, & Purvis, 2011).

Furthermore, given that social media outlets are so popular, many studies have sought to understand if outlets, such as Facebook, leads to negative mental health outcomes such as depression and anxiety. Many studies have already been conducted on this issue, but there have been many inconsistencies in the literature. Therefore, Frost and Rickwood (2017) conducted a meta-analysis to try and find a clear-cut answer to how Facebook affects mental health. Overall, their results showed that Facebook did, in varying degrees, affect anxiety, depression, body image and disordered eating, drinking cognitions, and alcohol use. Additionally, this meta-analysis discusses how Facebook addiction can have detrimental outcomes for individual’s mental health (Frost & Rickwood, 2017). This meta-analysis really opened my eyes to the potential detrimental effects that are associated with Facebook use and really made me analyze the reasons that make me open the app on my phone. While I do not think I am addicted to Facebook, I do have it at my fingertips and anytime I need a break from work I open up the app, it passes the time more than anything for me.

Lastly, while we review some detriments that could be attributed to technology, there are also some useful ways in which technology can help us with research collection. An article by Kirchner & Shiffman (2016) discusses how ecological momentary assessment methodologies can be used to study individuals’ experience and how their environmental surroundings contribute to their experiences. By combining both geographically momentary assessment with ecological momentary assessment, researchers are able to use multi-level sources of information form neighborhood conditions to understand subjective experiences. This is beneficial, in order to learn how to protect neighborhoods against substance misuse and other mental health problems (Kirchner & Shiffman, 2016).

2 Comments

  1. Interesting post, Ceci! I definitely agree with your comments about email. It’s a constant habit of mine to check if anything new has come in. An interesting thing I’ve heard people do is to use an app so that you are only delivered email 3 times a day. So any email sent in between gets held back until the next designated delivery time. This way you’re not constantly checking and you can get a solid few hours of focus on something else you’re working on. What do you think about that? I feel like it would be stressful to start, but I’d like to try it out sometime! It’s probably healthier haha.

  2. Great post Ceci. I have a similar habit of always checking my email and replying quickly regardless if its my advisor or undergrad students I TA for. Interestingly, I constantly have anxiety and slightly stress about emails – but in a different way. I get anxious about simply receiving an email from a professor or advisor. I tend to be clumsy and forget things, so whenever I’m close to a deadline I’m always checking my inbox nervously hoping I don’t get an email saying I forgot to do this or I didn’t attend this meeting.

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