Technology, stress and empathy

Techno-stress: stress or psychosomatic illness caused by working with computer technology on a daily basis.

My fellow journalist and friend Emily Fedor brought this phenomenon to our attention on Monday. I could immediately relate, in both the good and bad sides of stress. For instance, the moment when I turn off Airplane mode after a long flight and anticipate the inflow of missed texts illustrates techno-eustress, as I am gratified by the impending vibrating pulses from my smartphone. As for techno-distress: there is a tiny, dime-sized hole in the wall at my friends house. An X-box controller made it happen. Need I say more?

As technology updates itself into our daily lives, we find ourselves ill-equipped to handle techno-distress. Although Fedor’s solutions such as rest and time management may alleviate personal techno-distress, there area couple solutions that our society can invest in right now to combat and prevent techno-distress.

Education

I’m willing to bet that a good portion of techno-stress develops from what people know about computers. More specifically, it’s not what we know, but what we don’t know. Why is the Internet connection slow? What is a virus, and how do I know when my computer has one? What should I be looking for in a Privacy Policy? How do I set up a webpage?

So, let’s make computers a part of the core curriculum. It does not take a college education or maturity to learn HTML5; I’m sure students in elementary school and middle school can handle computer basics. And I don’t mean the computer education I received, where every few years they teach us how to type faster. I think we should make computers/technology a requirement for every year after, say, 4th grade. (In 3rd grade I learned how to multiply; if I could comprehend that, I bet I could set up a simple webpage.)

Techno-Empathy in Gaming

Education may the key to our future techno-eustress, but we’re Americans. We need palpable solutions now.

Enter empathy. I got the idea after reading my classmate Amanda Hutchinson’s post about a cancer research game. In Brunett’s America, there would a rule stating that all games must be associated with some sort of cause, and make that cause clearly visible in throughout the game. So, next time you’re playing Mortal Kombat and you chose to battle with Scorpion, you get read aloud a fact about HIV and how to prevent it from spreading.

Ok, ok. This idea needs to be fleshed out. But the premise remains: if we can infuse empathy into our daily tech lives, maybe people will understand that there are worse things in life than, say, never getting to buy Flappybird again.

I’m sure there are better, more practical ways of teaching techno-empathy, so let me know what your ideas are in the comments.

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