Beth does not own a computer. She recently began texting, but she detests it because it takes her too long to type out her message on her flip phone. The world of technology is foreign to her, and she is afraid to jump into it.
Most of us know someone with technophobia like Beth. Merriam-Webster defines technophobia as “fear or dislike of advanced technology or complex devices and especially computers.” Technophobia may even be accompanied by other symptoms such as breathlessness, excessive sweating, anger and shaking.
Fearing technology can be severely limiting in our tech-driven world. Many adults like Beth are “digital immigrants.” They did not grow up in this world of technology and they need someone to guide them through it. For them, technology appears too complex and difficult to deal with.
Technophobia can be mild or serious, but there is hope for the Beths of the world. Here’s how you can help your friend overcome their fear of technology.
Why does your friend fear technology? You will need this critical information before you can help them navigate the technological world.
For some, a fear of upgrading to a new computer or new piece of software is associated with the time it will take to learn it. Others may fear accidentally deleting all their personal information that would be stored in their computer.
Some may fear that technology will replace them as a worker.
Once you have helped them identify the source of their fear, let them know that technophobia is nothing to be ashamed of. Businessmen, teachers and blue-collar workers alike are just some examples of people who have feared technology. Instead of being consumed by this fear, they can choose to face it.
Jennifer announced that she would never buy a smartphone, preferring the simplicity of her flip phone. When her phone contract was up, however, she caved in and bought an iPhone. Once she realized all that it could do, she was happily sending text messages filled with pictures and emojis to everyone she could.
While Jennifer gradually embraced technology herself, some people need a little push in the right direction. Undoubtedly, learning to operate technology will help your friend become more efficient and better manage their time, but you need to make them realize that. There are many things you can do.
For example, show your friend how to use a smartphone, while explaining many ways in which it could improve their lives. Find an app that matches their interests and demo it for them. This could be a planner app, an exercise app, or even a favorite game.
In addition to apps, explain the benefits of using the internet if they're total beginners. Do they need to look up information? They only need to do a quick Google search to find what they are looking for. Do their grandkids not call enough? Show them how they could stay connected through social media.
Without using up too much of your own personal time, make some short appointments with your friend to show them the technological ropes. Ask them what it is they want to know and determine their current level of knowledge. Are they a complete newbie, or are they just trying to figure out how to work a particular app?
During your short appointments, you can teach them how to create a text file, organize files and folders, and show them how to open a web browser to perform a Google search. Teach them about sending e-mails or refer them to beginners’ guides. Download an app that may be useful to them and encourage them to play around with it.
Have some fun. Let them play around in Microsoft Paint or ask silly questions. Let them see that technology can be both useful and entertaining, not just scary.
Don’t overload your beginner friend with advanced technological know-how. Encourage them to take it one step at a time, and give them plenty of time to master new skills.
Teach them to problem solve. It is not beneficial for you or your friend if they call you every time a problem arises. Show them how they can type their tech question into Google and find an article that will give them a solution. Introduce them to YouTube and teach them to find tutorial videos that will meet their needs.
To sustain your friend’s motivation, praise them for the progress they've made. It may take several repetitions for your friend to grasp a new tech skill, so be patient as you teach them.
Your friend's technological needs may outweigh the time you have to spend helping them. In this case, show them where they can find help.
Local libraries, high schools, and other community organizations often offer classes to help people learn basic computer skills. Doing a quick Google search for classes within your community may yield several results. Help them sign up for a class so they can become more tech-savvy.
In the case of extreme technophobia, encourage your friend to seek professional psychological help. This may provide them with the support that they need so they can keep up with our tech-driven world.
Technophobia can be limiting. It may keep a person “out of the loop” or keep them from advancing in their career. Needless to say, using technology has many benefits in our society. If you have a technophobic friend, explain these benefits, make appointments to help them, and show them where they can find additional help. They may find they enjoy technology more than they ever thought they would.