Computers and Distress

At a recent weekend workshop I led a topic table on "Computers and Distress." I emphasized that this was not an information table but a time to look at where we get restimulated around computers. I talked about what I had figured out through discharging on my relationship with computers. When RC began, computers were large computational machines with little relationship to most people's lives. Nowadays, computers directly affect many of our lives, whether through work or play, or through the money machines or the scanners at the supermarkets.

I've noticed two different kinds of distress around computers. The first is distress which gets in our way of using computers, such as feelings of powerlessness or stupidity. People look confused and anxious in the grip of these feelings. A second category of distress plays out as people use computers-addictions, isolation, workaholic patterns, and even early sexual memories. Other distresses have to do with the role computers can play in reinforcing oppressions such as ageism, sexism, classism, and men's oppression.

At my table, we shared our first direct relationship with computers, what our current significant relationship is now, and then listed distresses we notice which get in the way of using computers or are present once we do, and how we have dealt with these.

People's first experiences were through home video games, grade school trips, those forms we had to fill out with No. 2 pencils, or on jobs. One person's first experience was with the video game, Nintendo, which she soon learned to hate as her friends spent all their time playing and getting better while she was unable to get past the first few levels. Present relationships with computers ran the gamut from those whose jobs were dependent on computers (spread sheet users, graphic artists, World Wide Web designers) to those who only used them incidentally as glorified typewriters.

There was distress about buying a computer. One person felt frustrated by having to buy something which would soon become obsolete. Another person was angry at capitalism for making people go through so much work to figure out which one they needed to purchase. Two people felt desperate about "catching up" and at risk of becoming "dinosaurs" and obsolete in their fields. Another hated having no choice but to learn about computers.

Learning new programs and applications often seemed too hard; it seemed that there was too much to know. One person felt he would become obsolete if he failed to learn about computers, yet he felt powerless to do so-a bind that is becoming more and more common. Others felt distrust or hatred of automated things and a desire to only interact with other humans.

One person had successfully struggled with interrupting an addiction to cybersex, which is masturbating with one or more individuals in real time over the Internet. For someone else, being involved with computers played into a pattern of needing to acquire more knowledge than others. Someone whose life is spent on computers said she hated that her work represents sheer capitalism. I spoke of how easy it is to isolate myself on my computer when I feel lonely. I try and work with others on my computer design work to help contradict that isolation (in the same way it makes sense for artists to do so). I also mentioned how computer and video games plug into my male, patterned workaholism, which makes me feel I need to be in a constant state of productivity, whether its moving to a new level in a never-ending game or uncovering a new clue in a six-hour-minimum CD-ROM. I encourage everyone to counsel on how they feel after reading this and send their own experiences back to Present Time.

Barry Joseph
New York, New York, USA

Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07