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Brain Circuits Fizzle with 'TechnoStress'

Information: Advances meant to make life easier have only made it more complicated. A new book says that's causing anxiety for millions.

March 22, 1998|JOHN MORAN | THE HARTFORD COURANT

Computers are marvelous tools for information management.

They allow you to view data, store data, sort data, retrieve data--all at the touch of a few buttons or mouse clicks.

But thus far, computers have proved far more adept at bringing information in than at filtering it out. And that's causing more problems than people realize.

Feeling harried? Rushed? Out of touch? Jumpy? Unfocused? Unable to get things done?

If so, you're likely a victim of what psychologists Larry Rosen and Michelle Weil are calling "TechnoStress," in their new book of the same name.

Rosen and Weil, who have studied the effects of technology on people, say millions are falling victim to technology-induced stress--often without realizing it.

"People are feeling frustrated. They're a bit overwhelmed, a bit under duress, and never really knowing why," Rosen said. "We're giving a name to it."

For Rosen, the fundamental issue is that computers and other kinds of advanced technology have created as many problems as they have solved when it comes to helping people cope with their daily lives.

"We've somehow lost our perspective, Rosen said. "We've been led away from the dream of having tools do things for us so that we have more time to do what we want to do."

Indeed, many of us have become slaves to the very technologies we hoped would free us from drudgery. E-mail, faxes, pagers, Web pages and cell phones demand our care and attention.

In the process, said Rosen, they keep us from giving our undivided attention to the jobs that matter most. "Even the idea of calm, peace and quiet is a foreign concept to people," he said.

Fortunately, Rosen said, there are strategies to limit the stress.

One of the first steps is to realize that virtually everyone is experiencing some level of technological stress. So don't badger yourself with the fear that you're not keeping up with others.

Another key step is to remember who's boss. If certain devices--telephone, fax machine or TV (to name just a few likely suspects)--are interrupting your concentration, turn them off.

In short, it's a matter of taking charge of your technology before it takes charge of you.

*

"TechnoStress," by Michelle M. Weil and Larry D. Rosen, was published by John Wiley & Sons. Its Web site is at www.technostress.com.

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