Is ‘tech rage’ a real thing?

Normally Salina was completely comfortable using all kinds of tech including a variety of computers and devices to different software and apps. But then something unexpected happened: as she was beginning a webinar, her wifi service dropped, so she deftly switched to a hotspot on her phone but for some reason that wasn’t working well either and her connection was completely slow and patchy. Her attendees couldn’t hear her as she welcomed them, and everyone’s videos seemed to be freezing. Her confidence and comfort went right out the window and she was completely frazzled, upset and short-tempered. It became impossible to think straight.

Does this sound familiar? So, it’s not just you! This is a normal human response: tech problems make us all a bit crazy and sometimes incite Tech Rage where maybe you just want to throw the tech devices out the window along with your sanity

But why do we get SO frazzled?

It’s our expectations

When we use any kind of systems, tools or equipment regularly, we expect them to work as they normally do. This could include your shower, coffee maker, car, the locks on your doors, the location of your keys or passport and your physical abilities like being able to walk, hear or speak – just to name a few.

When any of those unexpectedly stop working, it feels that our life and/or livelihood is being threatened. Our survival brain kicks into gear, alerts our nervous system which then goes into overdrive, raising our blood pressure and pouring adrenaline into our system enacting the fight or flight survival response. Even though we’re not truly under threat.

Perhaps we can survive the shower and coffee maker not working but when it comes to something more essential like the car not starting or losing our voice, we might get a bit more stressed because one of those might actually mean not being able to get to work or do our job.

The same is true for the technology, especially when we are dependent on it for our livelihood or our connection to our loved ones. Many of us rely on our computers, phones, wifi, email, video cameras and video conference apps. We expect our user ids and passwords to work. If and when they don’t then in comes the adrenaline and panic-mode which is so not helpful when we need to fix the problem.

An organisation called emotiv studied this problem and found that stress levels doubled during tech-stress events (though there was a hint that it might be higher in actual situations rather than their test situations). What’s worse is that people’s stress levels stayed high long after the event was over or repaired.

Perhaps being tech-dependent is our new human vulnerability.

What can we do?

  • First, recognise that this stress is completely normal.
  • When it happens, try to breathe and remain as calm as possible: you are not going to die from this problem, even if your brain imagines that outcome.
  • The issue is most likely out of your control, so it’s best to slow down and do what you can to fix the situation, one step at a time.
  • The best thing you can do isn’t about how you handle that moment of stress, but how you handle your body and brain on a regular basis. The more you take care of yourself and your wellbeing, the better you will be at handling high levels of stress in the moment. Build your resilience so you can weather the storm of tech problems when they happen.
  • The more you practise mindfulness, the easier it will be to let the upset just pass by and limit the impact on your nervous system.

Other tips for improving and maintaining your resilience:

  • Sleep well
  • Limit sugar and caffeine intake during the day.
  • Reduce your multi-tasking as much as possible
  • Give yourself time to think and time to get one thing done at a time….

Tech-stress will happen to most of us, but it doesn’t have to turn into tech-rage. Like with all other forms of threat responses, the more we strengthen our way of reacting to stress the better we become at it.

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