Most people nowadays embrace such technological advances as computers, iPhones and their ilk, but a recent Chapman University survey suggests that technophobia has migrated from a fear of using hardware to a fear of technology used in cyberattacks and surveillance of personal, computerized data.
People with such fears are sometimes called “technophobes,” a word that combines “technology” with the Greek word for fear, “phobia.”
Dictionary.com defines technophobia as an “abnormal fear of or anxiety about the effects of advanced technology.” The term originated in the early 1960s, when modern technology began to take off.
Perhaps the first technophobes were the Luddites, a group of unskilled textile factory workers in 19 century England who were replaced by machines during the Industrial Revolution. The Luddites responded by vandalizing the machinery from 1811 to 1816.
A 1992-1994 study by California State psychologist Larry Rosen and Michelle M. Weil surveyed 3,392 first-year college students from 38 universities in 23 different countries. It examined feelings about such technological products of that era such as computers, microwave ovens, automated banking and computer and video games.
The study, which did not survey U.S. college students, found that 100 percent of male students in Saudi Arabia were uncomfortable with technology as opposed to only 16.2 percent of male college students in India.
The seeming lack of more current studies of that phenomenon suggest that the fear of using technological products has perhaps died off along with the older generations that have been replaced by younger ones who have had the benefits of growing up with high-tech products.
“To be honest, we don’t talk about technophobia any more because even the older generations are enmeshed in their technology. To our research eye, everyone has or is becoming obsessed with technology, and the older generations are catching up,” Rosen said in an email to The News.
Rosen’s current research takes on such areas as the impact of technology on the brain and the impact of technology use on executive functioning and anxiety on university course performance.
His latest book, from MIT Press, is “The Distracted Mind: Ancient Brains in a High-Tech World” and is scheduled to be released Sept. 30.
However, a 2015 Chapman University study of top fears among U.S. citizens found that their number one fear is the corruption of government officials, with cyberterrorism and corporate tracking of personal information coming in second and third place, respectively.
Coming in number five on the list of fears is government tracking of personal information.
“The 2015 survey data shows us the top fears are heavily based in economic and big brother-type issues. People often fear what they cannot control and technology and the future of the economy are two aspects of life that Americans find very unpredictable at the moment,” Christopher Bader, who led the Chapman survey effort, stated in a recent article about the survey on the website of the California college.
These results show that although technophobia is declining, it is still a major fear for some U.S. citizens.