1.1 Introduction

Abstract
Humans exist today in an environment that is unlike anything we have seen before. There is an abundance of technical electronics present at all hours of our lives. Constant interaction between humans and gadgets. It is affecting us in ways that we are not even aware and in ways that we are. One of the main problems with so much dependence on “slabs” is stress. The purpose of this research is to help define and possibly help reduce the amount of stress from electronic interaction. As this is a relatively new field of causation, we will explore the reasons and offer possible solutions. By discussing with experts in the field through emails, blogs and research of tech stress related research already completed or started, the researcher will attempt to add to that result.

The approach will be to read academic research, interview experts in the field of psychology, and social science in general. The researcher will also watch videos from experts regarding tech stress. A series of real life situations will be included as examples of the types and extent of technology related stress. The objective is simply to explore the current knowledge of tech stress and add to that. The conclusion is that tech-related stress is increasing at an alarming rate and must be addressed in order to combat this epidemic.

Introduction

by Ric Epley

Technology is ever-present in our daily lives. Initially, the benefits of technology were an added feature that allowed us to perform tasks easier than before. However, as technology, particularly mobile device use continues to escalate, the dependence of these devices is causing a new kind of stress. Tech stress is defined as “the negative psychological link between people and the introduction of new technologies and is a result of altered habits of work and collaboration that are being brought about due to the use of modern information technologies at the office and home situations.”

The signs of tech stress are rampant: teenagers with iPhones obsessed with passwords to Wi-Fi when in a restaurant; the small business owner that is continuously trying to manage a never-ending flood of emails; the angry home-office worker hyperventilating over a computer virus and taking it out on their partners and children. These are only a few instances where tech stress has become real in our everyday lives.

Ryan Schmitt, tech support technician at iPhoneTodd, a company which provides iPhone repair for the digitally desperate, says, “People are so dependent on their iPhones that they are desperate to get their phone fixed at any cost. They’ll just stand there and look at you with dread and loss in their faces” (Schmitt, personal conversation, 2016).

This growing addiction to technology has become even more dramatic primarily because of the vast number of mobile devices. Especially dependent is the age group 14 – 30.  While smartphones have a very big upside in benefits, with GPS mapping or real-time access to an almost infinite amount of information, “pocket computers” are causing obsessive behavior, sometimes leading to angst, anger and depression.

Psychologist Francine Toder calls it the “always on” syndrome. She sees patients who are already “overwhelmed by life, and now their problems become much more complicated by all these new devices and nonstop data coming at them.”

This stress, says Toder, is especially pronounced in teenagers. They feel that they have to keep up with it all or they are disconnected from their social groups. It’s also not just the amount of data, but what Richard Wurman calls Information Pollution.  There is so much non-information also coming at you that processing it all in itself becomes a stressor.

We’ve all felt it ourselves. The moment of anxiety when you realize that your iPhone was left plugged up to your charger at home.  The incessant and compulsive need to check for incoming texts and emails, even at the movies or while having dinner with friends or family. The dropped call after waiting on the phone for hours with an insurance company or airline or government office, etc.

Santa Clara University psychology professor Thomas Plante says solid clinical research on tech-induced anxiety is still in its early stages. Still, he says, all you have to do is look over at that texting driver next to you at the red light to see firsthand “how we’re all constantly using our phones to deal with boredom or to get an immediate answer to some trivial question. We’ve reached a point where it’s increasingly hard for people to have the mind at quiet.” Plante got so fed up with his students sneaking peeks at their phones under their desks that “I now ban devices and I have students do a one-minute mindful meditation at the start of every class. ‘Take a deep breath,’ I tell them, ‘and get yourselves together.’ ”

Most people already grappling with stressed-out lives and other emotional problems, the always-on phenomenon can make a bad situation worse. Saratoga psychologist Janet Redman says she’s had patients simultaneously so anxious and so tethered to their smartphones “that some have accidentally recorded their therapy session, or they’ve accidentally answered their phone so that the person on the other can hear us talking.”

Modern technology is affecting our sleep. The artificial light from TV and computer screens affects melatonin production and throws off circadian rhythms, preventing deep, restorative sleep.

New research out of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden reinforces this fact, specifically relating to young adults. Doctoral student Sara Thomée and her colleagues at the University of Gothenburg’s Sahlgrenska Academy conducted four studies to find out the effects of heavy computer and cell phone use on the sleep quality, stress levels, and general mental health of young adults.

For the study, Thomée and her team asked 4,100 young adults between age 20 and 24 to fill out questionnaires. They also interviewed 32 of them who were considered heavy information and communication technology (ICT) users. The researchers analyzed and compiled the data, and the results revealed that intensive use of cell phones and computers can be linked to an increase in stress, sleep disorders and depressive symptoms in young adults.

Some of the more specific findings are:

  • Heavy cell phone use showed an increase in sleep disorders in men and an increase in depressive symptoms in both men and women.
  • Those constantly accessible via cell phones were the most likely to report mental health issues.
  • Men who use computers intensively were more likely to develop sleeping problems.
  • Regular, late night computer use was associated with sleep disorders, stress and depressive symptoms in both men and women.
  • Frequently using a computer without breaks further increases the risk of stress, sleeping problems and depressive symptoms in women.
  • A combination of both heavy computer use and heavy mobile use makes the associations even stronger.

So, what’s behind this link between technology use and negative health symptoms? The researchers have not yet fully determined why heavy technology users are more likely to have sleep disorders, higher stress and mental health issues, but one theory is that people with these symptoms are more likely to reach out and contact friends and family via technology at all hours of the day and night.

The relationship between technology and stress, sleep disorders and depression has more to do with the overuse of technology in our society, especially among young people. If you’re a parent, then you know firsthand how difficult it can be to get your child to put down a cell phone and stop texting so you can have a real engaged and fully present conversation.

This is a growing and serious public health hazard that should be acknowledged and addressed by both the medical community and technology industry. It’s been shown that the light from TV and computer screens production and melanopsin stimulation, and throws off our circadian rhythms. This interrupts or prevents deep, restorative sleep, causing an increase in stress and depressive symptoms.

Sara Thomée even suggests that devices contain a warning label. “Public health advice should, therefore, include information on the healthy use of this technology.” As in, companies carry warnings on their products and in their advertisements. “Text responsibly.” “Don’t surf, then sleep.”

Awareness of these negative aspects of technology should be beneficial in helping to control stress levels. Quite simply, turn it off, and get some good sleep. When you are on the computer for any length of time, take more frequent breaks and impose limits on the amount of time you spend online.

Are all your gadgets, devices, and social networking causing anxiety and stress? Turns out, according to new research, one out of three people claim they’re overwhelmed by everything from email to Twitter.

In the study announced last week, the University of Cambridge polled 1,300 people in the UK and revealed that feeling stressed about your communication technology can lead to general feelings of dissatisfaction with your life.

Interestingly, even younger tech users reported similar feelings of stress. The study noted that about 38 percent of study participants ages 10 to 18 felt overwhelmed by too much technology, compared to 34 percent of adults between the ages of 25 and 34.

This study follows another announced earlier this year that claimed Facebook and similar social networking sites can leave some feeling depressed. Stanford University in the UK researchers showed that because people tend to publicize only good moments, photos, and events in their lives while hiding the negative ones, users are left with a skewed view of their friends’ lives, feeling sad or dull by comparison.

For teenagers, it’s a given that using smartphones is convenient. How else would they show their friends about this witty thing they saw or heard? With the advent of apps like Snapchat or Vine, the younger generation has an accessible platform to share moments with friends.

Apparently, heavy smartphone use may increase the chances of developing anxiety or depression among youngsters. Author Alejandro Lleras said there is a long history for public technophobia, or the fear of new technologies, in society.” This fear of new technology happened with televisions, video games and most recently, smartphones,” said Lleras.

The gadgets themselves are only one facet of tech stress. The results of business models and strategies are also a huge part of it. Always getting a cyber “operator” when trying to conduct a routine task such as calling a retailer to see if they have a certain item. Somewhere in the last 15 years, business models have reduced the labor force by automating the reception of calls and by directing clients /customers to a website.

Thus, putting the burden of obtaining the information on the user and not the company. This can lead to hours of time trying to reach a result. Professor David Meyers of Lindsey Wilson College calls this The Plateau of User Tolerance (Meyers, 2016). This can also be seen by the implementation of technology to defer or deflect other tech problems. The credit card chip to thwart identity thieves that doesn’t work at your favorite retailer or the time it takes to confirm that you did indeed have automotive insurance when you got that speeding ticket 3 months ago. Or even something as simple as having a movie theater ticket person be on her cell phone when you are trying to buy a ticket. All these and more are a direct or indirect cause of stress due to technology.

I have chosen several specific topics to explore in the essays below. Artificial intelligence, autonomous cars, “softer robotics” wearable technological clothing, social interactive connectedness through social media and much more are also covered peripherally in the accompanying blogs – http://www.tech-stress.com. These 8 topics below were chosen simply because they were of more interest in propagating the site now. Other essays will continue to be added as this portal expands and ages. Smartphones, in particular, are flooding both the market space and the amount of time being swallowed by users.

1.2 Early Origins of Tech Stress

1.3 Addictive Dependency on the Internet

1.4 WiFi Zones and Staying Connected

1.5 How Different Generations View the SmartPhone

1.6 General SmartPhone Usage Effects

1.7 A Look Across the Plateau of User Tolerance

1.8 Smartphone Usage and Neck Pain Introduction

This new kind of stress increases due to the dependence and expectation on and for technology. It is not peculiar to our time in history, but the EXTENT is. It is a growing issue with billions of people wired in and that number growing rapidly every day. We exist today in an environment of dependency on technology. When we lose our access and connection to technology, we experience extreme stress. I will examine the causes, issues and potential solutions surrounding this phenomenon in a continuing medium on this website. As the growth and expansion of our interfaces with technology increases so will our dependency on it and the stress levels that this produces.

References

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