Friday, May 27, 2005

MTA: Media Transition Anxiety

Since the academic year ended and I now am launched into my more flexible summer work space, I've begun to tackle a series of new programs and online activities, including Firefox, RSS, Tiger, Photoshop CS2, Dreamweaver, and, of course, Blogger.

I've been forced to consider, up close and personal, a phenomenon I've thought about often, what I like to call "media transitions" - broadly defined as the psychological changes that occur when you enter a new computer-mediated environment. What motivates us to try a different program or venture into a new place online? What stops us? How do cognitive and emotional factors influence the transition?

In my last post I mentioned some reasons why I wanted to create my first blog, some of which I no doubt share with other people who are enthusiastic about the blogosphere. I also mentioned what took me so long. I'm busy, again a handy rationale for many professionals and citizens of cyberspace.

But it that the only reason?

Sometimes we convince ourselves that we're happy where we are. Do I really need a blog? Is it worth the time and effort? Do I want to deal with the inevitable technical frustrations. My computer lifestyle is going fine now, so why bother. If it ain't broke, don't fix it. Blogs are things other people do. I'm not a blog-type person (feel free to substitute in any other word for "blog"... like RSS, Firefox, home page, OSX)

All of these things indeed may be true. Despite the insanely fast-moving world of computers, it isn't always imperative to stay ahead of the curve. Sometimes indeed we are fine just where we are.

And sometimes the idea of making a change makes us a bit anxious - what I call "media transition anxiety." That trepidation ranges from small to large, depending on one's personality and the magnitude of the change required.

There may be a variety of reasons for that anxiety. A fear of creating software and hardware problems we never had before. A fear of feeling incompetent or stupid. A fear of failing. A fear of the unknown. If it involves entering a new social environment, we might worry about being rejected, or, as is so common in cyberspace, being ignored. So it comes as no surprise that we might cover up those worries with a few rationalizations to convince ourselves that our digital lifestyle is fine as is.

In some cases simple ignorance blocks our way. We just don't understand what we're missing out on. We don't get it. That may be a lack of imagination and curiosity on our part, or we just don't want to understand, in which case we're probably suffering from unconscious MTA.

5 Comments:

Blogger tridentcounselling said...

This is an excellent article John and adds to your substantive record of publications about the psychology of cyberspace. Challenges for some individuals and groups associated with the use of blogs and other online tools (instant messaging, videoemail, virtual coffee lounges and so on include -

1) "Media Transition Anxiety" (Suler, 2005)
2) Values towards technologies
3) Access to online tools such as computers and the Internet
4) Knowledge and training associated with the use of these technologies.

Jennifer

3:16 PM  
Blogger John Suler said...

Thanks! Important issues indeed!.

7:18 PM  
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