How to Get Over Technophobia

Last semester, I heard of a concept called “performative technophobia,” in which someone might proclaim a fear or aversion to technology in hopes of either getting people do complete some digital task for them or to perhaps to excuse themselves of any errors or perceived incompetencies while learning new digital skills. Now, I can’t stop thinking about technophobia, and how much of it can be performative, in the context of learning about technology during library school.

This past Spring, I took the required tech course at Simmons University, Technology for Information Professionals, which involves learning HMTL/CSS, some Python and CSS, and various other digital tools that may be relevant for librarians and archivists. The course culminates in everyone having to create their own website from scratch using HTML and CSS coding. Over the course of this class, I noticed that many of my classmates—myself included—mentioned having some degree of technophobia, whether it was a general preference for the analog, fear of how coding and programming works, or lack of general experience with some technologies or digital tools. One of the main things that I learned in this course is that we all had a lot more digital capabilities than we previously assumed. 

I’ve also been guilty of declaring technophobia to a performative degree when I was younger, just because of a series of unfortunate tech issues as a teenager like broken cellphones and laptops. I got over a lot of this perceived aversion to technology during college, especially while completing digital humanities projects that required me to learn more advanced programs like QGIS for mapping and WordPress or other content management systems to update websites. 

After being exposed to how technology can be used in exciting new ways for scholarship and professional development, I was more easily able to embrace the role of technology in the LIS field in grad school. But though I had dabbled in HTML/CSS before, even I expressed a fear of coding and programming in the Tech for Info Professionals course. I’ve realized that a lot of this perceived fear is actually just inexperience. It seems natural to want to declare inaptitude before we even try, as if to guard ourselves from self-inflicted criticism if we fail. A lot of the technophobia I witnessed was not actually rooted in a lack of digital skills, but more of a performance of the fear of failing.

Technology in the LIS field is a fairly common topic on Hack Library School, and I’m not the only one to discuss how to get over technophobia—guest author Lauren Seegmiller wrote about how she embraced learning technological skills as a self-proclaimed Luddite a few years ago, for instance. Whether your MLIS program has required tech courses or not, grad school is a great time to experiment with learning new digital tools to prepare you to be more comfortable learning them on-the-job too.

The reality is that no matter what type of librarianship we practice, technology will play some kind of role. And it’s time we embrace the idea that we all have some degree of a skillset to navigate an increasingly digital workplace and world. 

Whenever I feel like I’m struggling with tech issues or challenging new digital tools, here’s a few things I like to remind myself: 

1. Technology is a skill, not a talent.

People aren’t necessarily born with a natural aptitude towards tech. Developing digital skills often just comes down to how much time you invest in learning new technologies. The more experience you gain, the more easily learning new tools will come!

2. Technology is not a monolith, and it’s always changing.

It’s sometimes unclear what people mean by not being good at technology, because tech isn’t a singular thing. They often mean computers and all of the associated tools needed to utilize one, but chances are that unless you’ve really been living under a rock, you already have some digital skills and experience from your everyday life, even if you’re not an IT professional. Plus, because technology is constantly evolving, there will always be new things to learn. This can be a helpful reminder that we don’t necessarily need to become experts in certain programs and apps, but rather think of our digital skillset as adaptable to take on new challenges.

3. Use your research skills!

MLIS students already have plenty of research skills at our disposal to help us learn new digital skills. If you don’t know how to do something tech-related, chances are that you aren’t not the first person to experience this problem. Instead of freaking out, realize that you can use your research skills and training (even just Googling the problem you’re experiencing!) to solve the issue.

Are there any other helpful tips you’ve heard or learned to overcome tech challenges? Let me know in the comments!

Paige Szmodis is an online, second-year MLIS student at Simmons University in the Cultural Heritage Informatics concentration. You can find her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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