Coping With The So Very Modern Stress Of Technology!
It's not until a taken-for-granted piece of technology fails we realise how much we depend on it. Recently I was so frustrated by technology I stomped around my office cursing the massive, yet faceless, organisation behind my failing Broadband.
You might be surprised a psychologist and solutions coach, who advises on stress management, came perilously close to breaking point. I surprised myself, usually good at taking my own advice. But four weeks of "BT Broadband H*ll" frazzled my nerves. I soon discovered an immediate bonding occurred when I mentioned my woes - everyone had a technological stress (TS as I'm calling it) story. Be it computers, boilers, Sat-Navs, Internet providers or DVD systems - anything that depends on an Internet connection, a microchip or other technology can bring us to our knees.
I won't bore you with the minutia but having inexplicably lost my Net connection I was soon going round the BT phone system options. Trying to connect to a human voice about my broadband fault was nearly Mission Impossible. Where was Tom Cruise when I needed him?
I used cunning ploys to reach a "voice". Here's a tip - select "Sales", you'll get a person as they want to sell products! As the weeks unfolded I realised the dozens of "voices" I reached didn't have the wear-with-all to solve my problems.
Repeatedly handed from one invisible department to another, retelling every detail of my sorry tale, I criss-crossed the world between call centres in India and England. Frustration rose as they shifted the blame to, e.g., my computer, my modem, or my email provider (a convenient excuse not being BT!) when a private expert assured me these weren't at fault. Eventually two separate engineer errors were identified. Not before my usual "cup-half-full" nature faltered - my cup was emptying at a dizzying rate.
The crux of TS lies in this. When you've a problem with technology, if anything like me (a techno-moron!), you're easily fobbed off. You're falsely reassured when call-centre staff say you'll enter a queue for investigation . When you hear nothing in the designated 48-hour window or discover they're inept, TS begins.
Forget finding the "voice" that gave you erroneous information because you won't have an extension number/surname. How many "Gemmas" do you think are in the BT UK call system and how many "Mohits" in the Indian? Plenty, all who deny ever hearing of you! You restart the whole sad process returning to the horrid phone systems. Ultimately you feel you're nothing in the grand scheme of things. Humanity is lost when these companies deal with millions of us. I now suspect many of the 13 million days lost annually to "stress" are TS related.
Steps to conquer TS and retain a cup-half-full mentality:
* Whatever your technology failure (from boiler to broadband) try to identify the root problem. Easier said than done when, e.g., your service provider insists it must be something other than their service at fault. At least you'll appear competent having done some investigations.
* Keep a detailed diary of what's gone wrong and the process you go through. Take the name and (if they'll give it) extension number of call-centre staff. Even a Christian name is helpful if you eventually complain about the service. Also such steps gives you a sense of control.
* Identify what part of the problem's under your control. In my case I fully explored my modem, email provider, and PC. They weren't at fault but now I understand their function better - that's a positive.
* Don't buy into believing technology always makes life easier. Think of it as an "assistant", don't raise to status of "saviour". When let down it's not so exasperating and you're unlikely to feel broad-sided as I was.
* Check alternatives. For example, I now know there's a reasonable Internet cafe 20 minutes away for future emergencies.
* Never underestimate the power of technological problems to cause TS. I coped well the first week but that went downhill after literally hundreds of hours spent on customer-service lines!
* Acknowledge what you can't control. For example, you can't control the level of training staff have. Keep calm and note where such services fall-down to be included in a complaint letter. You gain psychological power accepting you can't control these things.
* Ask to speak to supervisory/managerial level staff. Insist things aren't being rectified fast enough, well enough, etc, asserting yourself over the junior staff.
* Do what you can to motivate those with control over your issue (e.g., that you'll complain in writing and are keeping a diary) to resolve things.
* Leave the situation when you can. Phone a friend, play music, use deep breathing, etc., to help contain TS. Distancing yourself from technology restores sanity - it certainly did mine!
* Visualise the problem as being contained in a bubble. Now visualise bouncing that bubble out of your life. Now visualise a calming image. Again, this worked for me.
* Exercise is a great stress buster, breaking the negative cycle of too much stress-hormone cortisol circulating in your body. Taking 30 minutes for a jog or cycle will raise endorphin levels and ratchet down stress levels.
* Time to re-evaluate how much you depend on technology. I'm now determined, e.g., to rely less on email and ring people more - that's a great thing to come out of it.
Finally many of these steps will help conquer any stress in your life, not just that related to technology. Well, now that my broadband connection's back on I'm going to email my new best friend – Harsh - in the BT India call centre. After all I've had more conversations with him recently than anyone else!
Published in the Express Newspaper