Look around any workplace and you'll see them - resisters, imposters, dreamers. The dizzying pace of new technology has spawned a whole range of techno-personality styles, says Francine Toder, a psychologist at California State University, Sacramento's Psychological Counseling Services.
Toder has identified the "Top Ten Computer Neuroses," different types of people who will react differently to technology. The personalities are the focus of a book in progress.
"One person's response to technology might be to push toward it," Toder says. "Another's might be to run away from it. Yet another might think, 'The government is trying to get us.'"
Toder's "Top Ten" technology personalities are:
The Technophobe - Like the name implies, technophobes have a strong fear of technology. They might be otherwise forward thinking, proactive people, but like a person who is afraid of snakes, they can be paralyzed by technology.
The Resister - This is the most common style. "When you meet someone who fits this profile, you know who they are by the energy it takes to convince them to try something new," says Toder. "Resisters aren't afraid of technology, they dislike newness and prefer the simplicity of a technology-free life."
The Challenger - Challengers are similar to Resisters with added anger, hostility, resentment and/or acting-out behavior. They may be anti-technology or show signs of paranoia. They can actually be destructive, like the Unabomber, or use technology in ways that are harmful, such as committing cybercrime. Toder says this reaction is not uncommon when people get up to speed technologically and then don't get support from management with hardware, software or other technology.
The Hermit - These people isolate themselves and avoid face-to-face contact. They may have strong technical skills but weak people skills. They embrace technology but have difficulty communicating with others about it.
The Addict - Addicts can't stop. They have a myopic approach to life - eating, sleeping and breathing technology while ignoring other aspects of work and non-work life. "They have a whole subculture, living cyberlives, which they find preferable and more satisfying than other ways of being in the world," Toder says. Addictions take two forms: mind-numbing activities like playing video games and checking stock-quotes, and mind-expanding activities such as web surfing.
The Driver - These "technomaniacs" are similar to addicts but with manic energy directed toward outpacing competitors and keep their cutting edge. Drivers are extroverts who love the attention, appreciation and adoration of others.
The Procrastinator - Hidden fear of failure causes this type to avoid doing what needs to be done. Instead, they use technology for less relevant tasks that are easier and more satisfying. Unlike the technophobe, the Procrastinator feels competent using technology and uses it to mask feelings of incompetence in other parts of life.
The Imposter - This type feels like a fake so they make big shows of playing around on the computer hoping to avoid being found out. They spend more time covering deficits than doing their job, which interferes with work relationships and further erodes self-esteem.
The Player - These are grown-up "gamers" who distract themselves by playing when things get heavy, scary or difficult. On the job, web surfing, chatrooms and ongoing e-mail conversations may often be the most satisfying parts of their workday. They are only interested in technology as a way to advance their play.
The Dreamer - Dreamers have unrealistic expectations about the role of technology. They feel cheated when their grandiose ideas about technology fall short of reality. Dreamers may have a general pattern of wishful thinking, distorted perceptions of what is possible, or a tendency to exaggerate.
Toder points out that many people will not fit one of these personalities, because they only describe those who have a maladaptive relationship with technology. But recognizing a co-worker in one of the "Top Ten" styles may indicate how that person might best be understood and motivated in our increasingly technological society, she says.
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