Down the Rabbit Hole of Technostress

For decades, John prided himself on eluding technostress – that vile affliction of anxiety caused by rapidly changing technology. Unlike most of his Boomer peers, he avoided cyber evolution as much as possible. However, a lost job forced him to adapt to the ’20s mentality (and no, not the 1920s). So down the rabbit hole of integrated circuitry, John fell. The cotton tale of his chaotic journey I now will tell. 

When John decided to change his occupation at age 63, he arrived at a horrifying realization. His vintage computer was too obsolete to help him find a new career. For years, he joked that his clunker desktop was a “bit out of date.” Upon learning it was so out of date, the manufacturer no longer supported its operating system, he could no longer live in denial of the 21st century. With great reluctance and trepidation, John embarked on his journey down the rabbit hole of technostress.

Starting Down the Rabbit Hole

In the first phase of his descent, John searched for an up-to-date PC. Strange terms like DDR3 Ram, dual processors, and SSD flooded his aging brain as he read online descriptions of prospective All-in-Ones. Processing all this data went far beyond his remedial tech understanding. So, he consulted with an expert – his 14-year-old niece. In no time, she recommended the perfect laptop that met John’s needs – and his budget. 

Armed with a brand name and a serial number, he surfed online for the best deal. At rabbit speed, he found his desired model on sale at a prominent retailer. Since John had a few questions before he made his purchase, he made a naïve mistake – using his landline to call that store. 

The First Whiff of Technostress

Immediately, a voice on an automated system instructed John to choose one of nine options. Since none of the options fit his purpose of asking a few questions, he pressed Zero hoping to get a human voice. Then a message announced that a “customer success specialist” would tend to him soon. Dust bunnies could have gathered under his desk in the time he waited. Finally, a human clicked on the line to help. John was promptly transferred to a different department when he explained his needs. After waiting another eternity, a second person greeted him. When John stated his needs again, this specialist said he would be placed on hold. Only he got disconnected instead. After surviving his first episode of technostress, he felt too tired to continue and decided to try again later. 

Clutching his rabbit’s foot while calling early the following day, John found himself again on hold with the message that he could receive quicker service if he went on the retailer’s website. “Okay,” he muttered while hanging up the phone. After spending 15 minutes setting up a new account with a password that required numbers, letters, capitals, and special symbols, John fell deeper into the rabbit hole. 

Meet the Chatbot

Then he encountered a mysterious innovation called a “chatbot.” As John’s technostress surged, he breathed slowly through a mild panic attack. When he received a long prompt that ended with an offer of help, he typed in a few questions. The chatbot responded by providing site links to subjects that had nothing to do with his questions. Recalling the phrase, “If you chase two rabbits, you will catch neither,” he retyped only one question. Upon receiving a message about a sale on refrigerators he logged off the website in disgust. 

After munching on some rabbit food, John decided to go to the retailer’s brick-and-mortar store. To his utter amazement, he received answers to his questions and bought his state-of-the-art laptop. He transported his proud purchase home and started setting it up. At first, he darted like a bunny entering information like his email address and the purchase registration number into the system. But his progress slowed to a crawl when prompted to download antivirus software. That’s when the real decline down the rabbit hole commenced. The more John sunk, the more his technostress rose. 


This freefall journey took one chatbot session, two phone calls, and three help-desk professionals to fail the mission of downloading the computer’s antivirus software. The first phone call ended after 45 minutes when the agent transferred John to another helper. During the second call, the tech advisor guided him through the process of entering a complex series of DOS commands that disabled the new computer’s built-in virus protection. Over and over, he was directed to click on buttons that didn’t appear on his screen and find icons that made no sense. An hour later, the befuddled tech agent placed him on hold to consult with a supervisor. Of course, the call was disconnected. 

Out of shear rabbit desperation, John tried his sleight of hand at another chat encounter with a live human. This techie responded at tortoise speed (usually a five-minute turnaround time with each chat line). After an hour of hare-raising torture, John experimented with a few ideas on his own.

Climbing Out of the Rabbit Hole

Eureka! John pulled the rabbit out of the hat and successfully downloaded that software. Like magic, his technostress disappeared as he emerged out of the daunting rabbit hole. That day, he learned he could manage almost any techie task a non-techie person would encounter. Here John offers a few tips to those technologically impaired souls who dare to boldly go down the rabbit hole of cyberspace. 

Tips for Easing Technostress

  1. Schedule at least one hour for any task involving automation. Simple chores that take a few moments of human interaction take ten times as long with automated assistance. 
  2. Keep emergency supplies like water, food, lavender oil, and a favorite book on hand as you venture through any techno task. You never know how long you will be tethered to your phone or computer.
  3. Practice deep breathing throughout the whole ordeal. Remind yourself that this technostress attack will pass soon. 
  4. Take breaks when you feel overwhelmed. Return when you feel refreshed. Remember that the slow tortoise won the race with the speedy hare.
  5. Whenever possible, hire a teenage consultant to do the job for you. 

With a touch of Boomer-generation ingenuity and a mountain of Depression-generation patience, you, too, can weather the storms of the current era of technostress. Now onto John’s next task – the job search.

This story was shared with permission.

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