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Overcoming 'Techziety'

How to feel better in a rapidly changing world.

A few years ago, I began looking at what was happening to older adults as more communication was taking place via text, email, and even cell phone and wrote a series of posts addressing that issue. My goal was to help older adults master these new skills to communicate more effectively with their friends, colleagues, children, and grandchildren. I received a number of positive responses to that series, some on the website, and some personally, since I had sent it out to a number of my friends and colleagues.

Almost a year ago, the world changed dramatically with the upsurge of the coronavirus and the beginning of the Virtual Revolution. Many of us began working from home and stopped having face-to-face contact with our friends and colleagues. We turned to Zoom, Facebook, and its variants as a primary mode of communication. Not only did that occur in our relationship with friends and colleagues, but professionally as well.

I have both an active medical psychology practice and work with a number of organizations that provide legal services, financial consultation, health care, and on. You know what? It ain't the same as it used to be, and it's not going back to how it was. Over the past six months, how many times have you visited your physician or other health care provider face-to-face as opposed to having a telehealth or phone meeting? My guess is not many.

If you are an attorney or have friends or family who work in the legal profession, many, if not most, of them are doing depositions and mediations virtually rather than face-to-face. Courts are closed, and some trials are now taking place using Zoom as a platform.

Some of these changes are positive:

  • A flexible work schedule
  • Reducing commuting time
  • Developing creative solutions to communication challenges

But this virtual world has its own drawbacks. Ever hear of Zoom fatigue? It’s what happens when you've been on Zoom meetings for three or four hours or have had four Zoom meetings in a day. It's hard to stay focused. It's hard to stay engaged. It's just hard. While I anticipate that new platforms will make it easier, we are at the beginning stage in the development of virtual communication technology, similar to where we were when the first mobile phone came on the scene. Think about what smartphones do now and compare that with what you could do with your first cellphone, nothing but call or be called.

Now something new has emerged, “techziety,” which is what happens when someone has a virtual meeting coming up and they become really anxious which interferes with their enjoyment of other activities. What are they worried about?

  • “Will I be able to get online and connected to the meeting?”
  • “Will my computer/cell phone/iPad malfunction?”
  • “Will I be dropped by the system and not be able to get back on?”
  • “If I've got something to present, how do I integrate that into a virtual meeting?”
  • “How do I look and sound? How am I coming across? Am I being too noisy or not noisy enough?”

Those of you who have read my previous posts know I move toward solutions rather than stay at the problem level. I also encourage others to send me their solutions and I share them in future posts.

Some things you can do if you are experiencing techziety:

  1. Have a backup plan. If the presentation slides aren’t showing up, make sure you have all of the talk printed out and just read it.
  2. Over-invest in technology. If you’re a business that needs to communicate more effectively with clients and employees, make sure that you have the “best of the best” equipment. Have someone in your organization be the technology guru to reduce anxiety.
  3. Become a better you. Spend some time learning things like mindfulness, positive self-talk, progressive muscle relaxation, yoga, and all the rest. It can really help you to worry less.
  4. It ain’t the end of the world. No matter how careful you are, no matter how focused you are, no matter the quality of the equipment that you’re using, something will go wrong. It is not a matter of if, but a matter of when. Since most others have had similar problems, you will be forgiven.
  5. It’s really worth it, even if it takes a lot of work. I recently held a Zoom meeting with five first cousins that I had not heard from in decades. One person couldn’t be seen, one person could be heard but couldn’t hear others, and other glitches which we overcame. If not for the pandemic and lockdown, would we ever have done that? No way! And two or three more cousins may be joining us the next time we virtually connect.

Now let me hear from you, not only about techziety, but what you’re doing to overcome the challenges you face in today’s world.