Despite Billions, Y2K May Have Been Worth the Effort
Larry Rosen, Ph.D.

The National Psychologist

November/December 2000


As we approach the end of another year I have begun to look back at the technological whirlwind since we began the new century.

Certainly the year began with a sigh of relief as very few Y2K problems arose. Having done research on peoples' reactions to Y2K during 1999 in the USA, Germany, and Slovakia and having worked extensively with colleagues and assessing worldwide public Y2K reaction, I was pleased to see that we escaped. I was not, however, pleased to see press that Y2K was a fabrication and a costly one at that. Certainly, Y2K cost the U.S. and the world billions of dollars. Without those billions we would undoubtedly be looking at numerous technological glitches a year later. It turns out that money spent early was money spent wisely.

Midway through the year we watched the number of U.S. households with personal computers top 50%, rising from about 42% at the beginning of the year to 51% in August. We also saw the Internet access soar from 26% at the beginning of the year to 42% in August. But all is not equal in cyberspace as the recent report from the U.S. Commerce Department indicated. Only 24% of Black and Latino households have Internet access. A September survey by the Pew Internet and American Life Project also reported that of the over half of Americans not now on the Internet, 31 million never plan to be online while another 24 million said they probably will not be online in the future. We are seeing what many call a Digital Divide that is getting deeper by the day.

This year we also saw the dark side of the Internet and electronic mail. While the Melissa virus caught many by surprise at the end of 1999, the Love Bug really hit hard in mid-2000. It felt good getting an e-mail that said "A love letter from me," so many of us opened it and faced the consequences. Even with the attendant publicity, I get at least one Love Bug virus e-mail per week, months later!

Our electronic mail boxes are bulging with no end in sight. Even with e-mail filters and with canceling most of my discussion groups, I still get over 100 messages a day. Of those, half or more are unsolicited. I don't know why people want to sell me something, but more people each day must feel that I am a patsy. We are in a major communication revolution. Just look around at all the cell phones, pagers, wireless PDAs (personal data assistants or handheld computers), e-mail, voice mail and telephones, galore. So many tools and so much trouble actually communicating!

I find cellular telephones particularly interesting. Originally called "car phones" they have evolved from the car to everywhere. I have seen people talking on a cell phone in the movie theater, riding on a skateboard, and even using a bathroom stall. One talk show listener told me that he constantly has to tell people to stop talking on their cell phones in church! Feel lucky that you live in the U.S. where only one in three people has a cellular telephone. In Finland, it is closer to three in four! What is the strangest place you've heard someone talking on a cell phone? E-mail me and let me know.

Speaking of Finland, the International Labour Organization published a report in October 2000 highlighting the cost of workplace stress, which they attribute mostly to the rapid rise of technology. Citing studies around the world, guess which countries have the most technological stress? Finland, USA, Germany and the UK, four of the more highly technologized countries. In Finland, over 50% of the workforce experiences some kind of stress-related symptoms. In the USA one in 10 working-age adults suffer clinical depression each year. As technology proliferates are we heading to the levels of Finland's depression?

Other studies are finding that we cannot live or play without our technology. Andersen Consulting found that 83% of American workers who took more than seven days of vacation remained in contact with the office through technological means including cell phones (most popular), laptops, and pagers. One-third of vacationers checked their office voice mail while on vacation.

You might get the idea from this column that I am anti-technology. However, those of you who have been reading my columns for the past six years know that I am a techno-geek. But I am also in favor of keeping your mental and physical health while all around you others are struggling with their own e-life crises. How can you keep your e-life in check? Make each new technology a separate choice. Ask yourself: Do I need this? Do I want this? Will this make my life easier? If the answers are all "Yes" then set a limit on the amount of time you are willing to devote to learning and integrating the new technology. Don't let technology overtake your life. It can and, if it does, you will soon will find yourself buried under an avalanche of e-mail, voice mail, computer software, computer hardware and more technology than you can handle in a lifetime. Take control and don't let it control you!

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My most recent column on billing programs certainly touched a nerve and generated more e-mail and phone calls than any column in the past six years. Comments fell into two areas. The majority of readers was appreciative that I reviewed my previous top billing programs and wanted to know what I really felt and which ones I really liked. Trust me, my review indicated the strengths and weaknesses of those programs and only you can decide which works for you.

E-mail me at rosen@technostress.com and tell me what billing program you use and what you like and don't like about them. If I get enough e-mail I will synthesize them into a column.


Copyright, 2000, The National Psychologist. Reprinted with permission. The National Psychologist is a privately-owned bimonthly newspaper which may be purchased for $30 a year. Write or call: TNP, 6100 Channingway Blvd., Suite 303, Columbus, OH 43232; telephone: 614.861.1999 or fax with Visa or MC to 614.861.1996.