by Howard Seemann


Cyb-er-pho-bi-a, n. an irrational, excessive fear, dread or hatred of the rapid proliferation of on-line information resources, computer programs and other technological advances.


The word is too new to appear in my dictionary. But cyberphobia is real nevertheless.

Dave Barry's book about the Internet has been on the best-seller list for more than a year; Time magazine has reported the introduction last holiday season of a version of the Barbie doll on a CD that enables you to try up to 15,000 outfits and print them out; and the newspapers are full of ads pushing personal computers.

You can't avoid getting acquainted with computers and the Internet much longer -- they aren't going away. Before you turn this page, however, stick with me for awhile as I suggest ways of dealing with, admit it, your cyberphobia.

First, you need to get out of the "denial" mode of saying, "I can't learn those sorts of things," or "Don't you think it's all a bunch of hype?" Did you know that every time you drive your car, you use a computer? Or when you use a VCR? Your microwave? The personal computers have been around long enough to be quite user-friendly.

The point is, and I admit to a bias, you are missing an awful lot by avoiding the issue. The rewards are great -- if you are willing to put your denial aside and spend some time at learning a new skill.

When I researched this piece, I put out a query on the Internet, suggesting that some people are unwilling to do the work needed to learn, and asked if we had become a nation of addicts of instant gratification. If it isn't intuitive, we don't want to learn.

So shrug off your denial and your need for instant gratification. Here are some tips to make the learning experience a positive one:


He or she has to be willing to watch you make mistakes. And to talk you through some procedures, not always showing you how to do it. The magic is in the one-on-one relationship with a patient helpmate.

Another source of assistance is a computer user group. Members tend to be supportive and helpful to newcomers and veterans alike. Sometimes just a phone call is all that's needed.

The challenge of learning about personal computers and the Internet has nothing to do with sex, race, age, education or income. Cyberphobia crosses all those societal labels. But if you're willing to make the effort, you can become a cybernaut instead of a cyberphobe. n


Howard was more than a mite fearful of going to his first usell those people would know so much more than he did. But within six months, he was presenting programs for the membership.


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