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Gerardo Castillo Ceballos, School of Education and Psychology

The technological virus

Mon, 29 Jun 2020 10:09:00 +0000 Published in El Norte de Castilla and Diario de Navarra

Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) are increasingly integrated into our lives staff and work, which has benefited both companies, which can have a better information management , and individuals, who can have access to a large volume of information and communicate anywhere and at any time. However, they have also led to risky situations for those who use them inappropriately.

When we conceive technologies not as an instrument, but as an end in themselves, we tend to use them without moderation. We thus fall into states of over-information that overwhelm, fatigue and stress us. Psychological disorders arise that are encompassed in the term techno-stress. It was coined in 1984 by the American psychiatrist Craig Brod to designate "a disease of adaptation caused by the lack of skill to deal with the new computer technologies in a healthy way".

Other authors define technostress as a psychopathology related to the excessive dependence and difficult use of ICTs or the fear of not being able to live up to their development in the future. Cases of ICT stress tend to be closely related to a social context in which there is an excess of information, demand for knowledge and the need to be always connected and reachable.

The philosopher Byung Clul-Han considers that the incessant bombardment of information nullifies people's capacity for analysis: "hypercommunication destroys the silence that the soul needs to reflect and to be itself. One perceives only noise, without meaning or coherence".

A report of the Observatory of Health & Safety Office warns that the excessive use of information technologies on work produces negative psychosocial effects, such as irritability, nervousness, anxiety, sleep disorders, visual fatigue, family conflicts and loss of friends. These ills are exacerbated when technological viruses reach our computers, especially those of subject .

A computer virus is a program that loads onto a computer without knowledge or permission from its usual Username . Some viruses are simply annoying, but most are destructive and are designed to infect and take control of vulnerable systems.

Constant connectivity is a danger. Microsoft has published a report on technostress based on a survey to 20,000 workers in more than 20 European countries. Seventy-nine percent responded that ICT distracts them and impairs their performance, rather than making them more productive.

The irruption of cell phones, e-mails and social networks in daily life has generated that technostress, which initially affected only the executives of business, is now suffered by many adolescents and young people. The potential risks of suffering from technostress particularly affect those working in the fields of communication, finance, administration, science and technology. These sectors are highly exposed to the pressure of technological change and information overload and speed.

Mar Sabadell, professor of a university Master's Degree at Health & Safety Office, and expert in telework and technostress, gives some tips to prevent technostress: we must have a positive attitude and trust in our personal adaptive capacities to face new challenges; we must be proactive and set the limits of our availability in space and time, both at work and at staff; we must use muscle relaxation techniques and practice some sport to avoid episodes of fatigue.

Other experts recommend the following strategies: use ICTs only for what is strictly necessary; prioritize interpersonal communication; do not take work home. Disconnect. Do not be dependent on the cell phone or laptop; set limits to our connection with ICTs, establishing "digital naps" understood as periods free of new technologies; look for hobbies outside the computer.

Prevention of technostress should start in childhood. Both the family and the school should limit the time children and adolescents spend on mobile and video games, encouraging instead habits of face-to-face play, reading and cultivating hobbies.

A few words by Albert Einstein (1879-1955) were prescient of what would happen a century later: "It has become frighteningly obvious that our technology has surpassed our humanity".