Arts & Entertainment

On Technostress: Beating The

Technostress: (noun) The negative psychological link between people and the introduction of new technologies, predominately caused by the quick pace of technological change / lack of standardization within technologies and inability to cope with that beeping noise the printer makes every fifteen minutes which no one can figure out how to eliminate. Seriously, can we get someone to fix that? It’s really annoying.

Technostress is one of life’s fun little ironies — Technology created to increase one’s free time and reduce stress, actually winds up increasing stress and severely reducing the time spent napping on one’s couch. Thanks to the wonderful benefits of technology, we are never “out of the office” or “away from the desk.” Instead we can be reached anywhere at any time; via email, cell phones, sidekicks, blue tooth, blackberries, blueberries, frankenberries and other such wireless communication shackles. So much of technology is driven by the desire to keep everyone plugged in at all times that a great deal of stress is derived from our inability to unplug from the world at the end of the day.

There goes that beeping again — I really hate that printer.

“Golly,” you’re probably saying to yourself right now. “Technostress sounds like a serious medical issue — where can I find help on dealing with the anxiety brought on by technology in the workplace?” The good news is that there are many ways in which to cope with the stresses of technology. In addition to an assortment to helpful books on the subject (many of which can be found at your neighborhood retailer), you could hold an open and thoughtful dialogue with your boss or HR representative, conveying your concerns regarding your emotional well being. Or you could take a baseball bat and destroy every piece of office equipment within sight.

Unfortunately many offices frown upon baseball bat-wielding techno-vigilantes (despite claims of promoting healthy stress management techniques). Fortunately however, after reading the “Jam of the Week” from May 3, I was able to properly relieve some of my techno-stresses in a safe and healthy way. On Monday, May 7, the Bowie Baysox (the Orioles’ AA affiliate) held “Office Space Night,” a promotion based on the very funny Mike Judge movie. The Baysox really did a great job with the promotion — Fans were greeted at the gate by employees dressed as characters Bill Lumbergh and Bob Slydell, handing out memos (with the correct cover sheets attached). The promotion really captured all the aspects of the film, from contests involving pieces of flair, to clips from the movie played on the scoreboard in centerfield. There was even a “jump to conclusions” mat! Of course for me, the Pièce de Résistance took place during the seventh inning, where for a mere $1 (which went to benefit families of Virginia Tech victims), fans could take a swing at a piece of office equipment. (Fans of the film will surely recall the scene involving a fax machine, a baseball bat, and three very techno-stressed individuals). Like an overactive child impatiently waiting for Christmas morning, I rocked back in forth in my seat, eagerly anticipating the seventh inning — the incessant beeping of the office printer running through my head. I spent much of the third inning fumbling though my wallet attempting to calculate out how many swings I could afford, and then debating whether or not to run out to my car in order to grab the change which had collected beneath the driver’s seat.

When the seventh inning finally arrived, I was surprised by the lack of commotion surrounding the promotion. Were people not aware of the dangers of Technostress? Were they not as keen on damaging office equipment as I? Were they actually watching the baseball game? I quickly put these thoughts aside as I handed over a crisp portrait of Abraham Lincoln, covered my eyes with a pair of safety glasses, and prepared to take my first swing. I took a deep breath and envisioned the office printer, the bane of my nine to five existence. I recall very little from that moment on — shards of plastic flying into the night air, a feeling of exuberance and glee filling my soul, and the sound of metal crunching beneath my mighty blows. When I came to (several dollars later), a crowd had finally gathered outside of the stadium, with people ready to rid themselves (at least temporarily) of their Technostress. It was really a beautiful thing — people of all ages, races and genders coming together to bash office equipment with a baseball bat. I can’t tell you whether or not the Baysox won the game, but I will say that “Office Space Night” was a resounding success. For the first night in quite some time, I was able to lay my head against my pillow without having the stresses of the day running through my mind. For a few short hours I was able to put aside all of the technological stresses in my life — and it felt good.

Now, if I can just get that printer to stop beeping … I might have to talk with our HR rep about purchasing a Louisville Slugger for the office.