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The View from Here

It’s just what we needed to pencil into our already overflowing DayRunners or tap into our PalmPilot Pros: read book on how to deal with “technostress.”

As if the business world didn’t have enough to do, here comes a new — but not too original or helpful — 240-page volume on how to use technology without being enslaved by it. Sounds simple.

Copiers. Fax machines. ATMs. Wireless. Pagers. PIN numbers. PCs. Voice-mail. E-mail. The Web. All of it is supposed to make our personal and professional lives easier, right?

The issues raised in TechnoStress: Coping with Technology @work, @home, @play, left me in one of those cloudy funks, scratching my head and wondering why I spent countless hours toiling away on a Web homepage that has been visited by eight or so of my closest friends.

Could I be technostressed?

Too new for Webster’s

According to co-authors Michelle M. Weil, Ph.D. and Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D., technostress can be defined as “the irritation we feel as our boundaries are constantly invaded by beeps, pages, and cell phone conversations from the restaurant table next to us at dinner, at the movie theater, or anywhere we previously enjoyed peace and quiet. It is our feeling that we should be able to work as fast as our computers. It is our bewilderment that with so many time-saving devices, we never have enough time. It is our feeling of helplessness when our children or neighbors can ‘surf the Web’ and we still do not even know what that means!”

That blather sounds more like the inability to accept change and adapt to it rather than a quasi-psychological condition afflicting millions of Americans.

The solution to technostress, say Weil and Rosen, is “to develop a belief that you can master what [technology] you want to learn and leave the rest alone.” For this wisdom, they needed nine chapters. Essentially, TechnoStress the Book is an attempt to capitalize on a timeless fear of new stuff. Technostress the Condition is a weaselly excuse.

So, as the mist clears, no — I’m not technostressed, but I am annoyed by this book.

The Atari-Nintendo generation and why it will rule the world

As a much-maligned twentysomething, I take technology for granted. I grew up watching too much TV, playing too many video games and never having to use a typewriter.

At my first newspaper job, I listened to old guys talk about hot lead, Linotype and CompuGraphics. I used an old Mac Plus, QuarkXpress and a laser printer to do more work faster and better. Desktop publishing software has wrought a fundamental change to the publishing business. These days, everyone’s a publisher — on paper and on the Internet. Despite alarmists’ wolf-cries, freedom of the press has never been more secure or profitable.

What’s the link between Nintendo and making money on the Web? That technology thread. My friends and I embrace technology, while our parents wonder how to get those annoying blinking 12:00s off their VCRs.

In this brave new information age, whining about technostress is akin to striking up a conversation with “Back when I was…” or “In my day…” Doesn’t wash.

I’ll admit my attitude about accepting technology or getting out of its way is a bit simplistic and a tad flippant. There are serious issues that we’ll have to confront on the bumpy road of progress. Perhaps the most pressing one encountered so far is the ever-widening gulf between the techno-haves and have-nots. But addressing these problems begins with embracing technology. The first step: chunk your Wintel PC and buy a Mac.

See you on the digital frontier.

Jim Laird is editor of the Mississippi Business Journal. His e-mail address is jlaird@msbusiness.com. His homepage hasn’t been updated since October.

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