Rage Against The Machine....

and I'm not talking about the band!

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Episode #2: Computer Rage

By Caroline Agbayani

Self-Witnessing Observations

1. How did I decide what to report on?

    Computer rage is becoming a problem for many because of the lack of proper informational technology training.  Our lives have become increasingly dependent on computers and the impact of the booming information technology age is all the rage (pardon the pun) among the young and old alike.  Rapid technological development have caused many to be impatient with uncooperative computers and frustration could lead to rage.  I am constantly working on computers and I have had my fair share of outrageous behavior with them.


2. What methods did I use?

    I will be using Dr. James' Three Step Method to analyze my report.  It involves analyzing the three fold self: sensorimotor, cognitive and affective.


3. What difficulties were there and how reliable are the observations? 

(What errors may there be?)

I didn't have much difficulty with my observations because I have a bad habit of talking to and swearing at my computer whenever it freezes up on me or it just plain doesn't do what I want it to.


4. What were the observations: Where? When? What? Who?

Step 1: Acknowledge

At work, I am constantly using the computers for typing out different things that my boss needs.   On one particular day, I came in to work and needed to print out my 15 page research paper from my floppy disk because my printer at home wasn't working.  I opened up my file and looked over it one more time.  I noticed that I had some grammatical and spelling errors so I corrected them as necessary.  Then I made sure I saved the changed document and I clicked on the disk icon at the left hand corner of the the Microsoft Word program.  I checked the status bar and it was saving the changed document.  I also had to add a new page for references.  I started on a new document for my references page and I saved under the same name of my 15 page research paper.  Without hesitation, I saved my blank references page over my entire 15 page research paper!!!  I was hoping to see the prompt that said "This file name already exists.  Did you want to replace it?"  But I swear, I NEVER saw that message come up!  It was too late before I realized the damage I've done.   My entire 15 page research paper was now reverted to one page with the title "References" on it.  I thought I could retrieve my lost paper but to no avail.  I nearly broke down at the thought of my carelessness and negligence.

Step 2: Looking at the Three Fold Self:

Sensorimotor, Cognitive, Affective

  • Sensorimotor:  When I saw that my 15 page paper was gone and reduced to one page with the word "References" on it, my eyes got big and my heart started to beat fast.  My hands got cold and nervous tension erupted at all parts of me, shoulders, neck, fingers, and my mouth.  I made a fist and slightly pounded the desk in front of me while simultaneously saying "What the hell happened?  Holy crap!  "Where is the rest of my paper?"  I remember trembling when I tried to retrieve my lost in the recycle bin and hard drive.  The original document was nowhere to be found!   I got up out my seat and my knees went weak.  I asked the secretary, softly and anxiously, "Can you help me?  I did something wrong!"  I felt tears well up in my eyes.

  • Cognitive:  I immediately thought "Oh my God!  I can't turn in my report today!  That stupid computer lost my document!"  At this point, I started to turn the blame away from me and displaced it on the computer!  I couldn't fathom how I could make a mistake like that!  I also said forcefully "Why didn't that message or prompt come up?   It's supposed to come up when I do that kind of stuff!"  I felt ashamed at losing my document and I tried to tell my co-workers that I don't know what the computer did!  In my mind, I told myself  "Carol, you have got to be strong here.  You can't lose face in front of your co-workers.  You need to tell them that the computer saved the document wrong and it didn't give you any notice or warning about replacing the 15 page research paper." 

  • Affective:  I was so scared and shocked!  I didn't know what to tell my biology lab instructor.  I just felt like an idiot.  I wanted to tear the computer apart looking for my document.  I remember telling the computer "Why now?  Do you have to do this to me?   Shit, what did I do to deserve such a dumbass computer like this?"  I left my working place feeling a jackass and I swore  under my breath.  I was muttering the entire time.  I envisioned the computer mentally but my anger was displaced verbally as I walked out the door.  I walked to my lab thinking of an explanation to give my TA.  When I walked into lab, I proceeded straight towards my TA and asked to talk to him outside.  When we got outside, I couldn't compose myself any longer because my pent up frustration, anxiety, and anger had to come out.  I said "I don't have my report..."  Then boom!   The tears came and flooded down my face like a river.  I could hardly utter a word amongst my emotions and crying.  My TA asked what happened and I told him that I accidentally deleted my report.  I said "I don't know what happened but it's gone.  I'm so sorry!"  I stood there helpless and feeling pitiful.  My TA sympathized with me and granted me an extension.  I was relieved yet I still felt anger towards myself and the computer.  I went home still feeling a little aggravated from the day's events but relieved nevertheless. 

Outcome:  I turned in my report without having any penalties and earned one of the highest grades in my class! 


Step 3: Modify:   What recovery possibilities are there? 

How could you modify this reaction pattern?

  • Sensorimotor:  I needed to take a deep breath and try to logically think of what went wrong.  Instead of panicking instantly, I should have tried to calmly figure out where my document could be such as searching the A drive, hard drive and the recycle bin.  I did these things only after I got upset!  I think I should have walked away or sit down for a few minutes before asking for help. 

  • Cognitive:  I didn't want to look like a fool in front of my co-workers but I needed to swallow my pride and realize that I truly needed their help.  It wasn't going to help me if I remained silent but violent and contained my frustrations.  I kept thinking that my co-workers were going to think I was a dumb idiot and I didn't want to them to think that way of me.  I should give my co-workers more credit because they were helpful and came up with different solutions to my problems.  They actually tried to retrieve my lost file by using their own computers and software in their labs.  They were nice enough to assist me in my dilemma and didn't mind stopping their own work to help me out.  Next time, I won't be holding back any questions or doubts that I have whenever I work with a computer.   They're always willing to help me out so my thought process was wrong and negative.  

  • Affective:  After the incident, I thanked God because my co-workers and TA were  understanding and sympathetic individuals who didn't put me down for making a mistake when I was trying to look good in front of them.  My positive thinking helped me feel much better and I forgave myself.  I admitted that the computer gave me a hard time but then again, computers are faulty just like people.

  • Modifying my behavior: From that day on, I become paranoid whenever I have to deal with saving documents on a computer and I always make sure that I have back-up copies of my work.  To recover from this traumatic event, I enrolled in an ICS 101 class the following semester!



Theoretical Explanation Behind Computer Rage

A psychological view

TWeb interviewed Andrew Thatcher, a lecturer of industrial psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand

Q. Is there such a thing as PC rage?

A. One school of thought would say that this is in fact actually rage at society taken out on objects closer to hand. A hundred years ago we might have seen people get angry at their pens and slam them down – we didn’t call this pen rage. This school of thought would say that we are a very angry society and are far more stressed than ever before. But because society is less accepting of taking this anger out on other people, we now take it out on things: in all probability, you’ve done and said the same things to your toaster that you’ve done to your PC.

Another school of thought would argue that it is the technology itself that is responsible for PC rage. It originated in 1983, when PCs had only been around for a couple of years, by a guy called Hudiburg. Hudiburg wrote down a list of what he called Computer Hassles, and made a hassles scale, which is still in use today though out of date. The list describes a whole range of issues and the reactions people had to their PCs, not all negative, including talking to them. It could be argued that hassles with a PC have lead to mounting stress, which is relieved in a sudden outburst of rage against the source of the frustration, namely the non-functioning PC.

But there does not seem to be direct support for the relationship between computer hassles and PC rage. PC rage might also be due to the changing nature of work. Computers are often regarded as things that are thrust upon society, and peoples’ jobs are becoming more and more dependent on them.

People are also told that computers will speed things up and there is an expectation of an increase in their productivity. So when the so-called tool breaks, they don’t have an opportunity to take it out on the boss, and the frustration is taken out on the thing that is causing the immediate problem – the PC.

Q. So what can we do to prevent it?

A. If it has a deeper social issue at heart, then we need to see it as a symptom and drill down to the actual cause of the rage. But if its cause is simply stress, then we can learn to manage and get around it – though I’m not convinced that this would work totally. If you remove some of the symptoms of rage it will often manifest itself in another area.

If we talk about managing stress, we need to learn to channel it somewhere, as stress is just going to increase and not get less. One of the biggest sources of stress in the work place today is that technology is getting forced onto people, and the more technology we add, the more stress it’ll place on people, so increased automation is not always the solution.

I heard that some popular software was released with tens of thousands of bugs in it. If this were true of a motorcar, the car simply wouldn’t sell, so if you have some sort of software to prevent all these bugs producing problems, then that is definitely one way to minimise your stress.

When you’re at a crisis point, a stress management course won’t help. I think that it’s normal to let frustration out, whether it’s in a verbal form or not. But it’s also true that there may be other personal factors that come into play to have brought that person to the crisis point.

Q. Are certain people more likely to suffer from PC rage than others?

A. I’ve found with computer phobia that though one would think there would be a profile for people who are more likely to be susceptible, there is in fact no such pattern.

One could make generalisations from personality theories about who would be more likely to enjoy computers. For instance, with a Jungian theory of personality, an introvert is someone who focuses on an analytical problem and is therefore more likely to enjoy computers, while an extrovert is vivacious and social, and would probably be a non-computer type of person. However, as I already pointed out, this has not proved to be true with computer anxiety.

There are four groups of people – including those who will not use a computer at all: the low-end user who expects little from the PC, a middle range user who can do many things but not all, and a high-end user who knows what is going on. Typically, the middle group will experience a greater degree of frustration than the last.

Andrew Thatcher is a lecturer of industrial psychology at the University of the Witwatersrand, with a particular interest on the impact of technology in the workplace.

The following was taken from an article entitled "Computer Abuse" on the ninemsn.com website.

Life wasn't meant to be easy - at least until computers came along. Now, thanks to technology, some of the more mundane and time-consuming tasks are a breeze.

But the convenience of computers comes at a price, and depending on your self-control, that price-tag can be astronomical.

A recent industry survey reveals an alarming trend of user-aggression when the computer spits a chip. Of those surveyed, 54 percent say they've experienced some level of computer rage.

At the violent end of the scale, two percent admitted to actually picking up their computer and hurling it across the office. One-quarter of users say they're guilty of screaming or swearing at their computer, with almost one-fifth 'fessing up to physical abuse - if their computer lets them down, it cops a hiding.

Problems such as program crashes, virus infections and lack of disk space are enough to send some users to the brink, and the research shows it's not just the novices who over-react. Experienced operators are just as likely to lose their temper.

A common approach is the Fonzie Principle, also known as Percussion Therapy, where the user punches the computer and, somehow, the problem fixes itself.

According to Sydney University psychologist Kate Baggs, a more constructive way of dealing with computer rage is to fantasise about Percussion Therapy, rather than acting it out.

So, if your computer is driving you to despair, take it outside and shoot it, throw it from the top of a building, flatten it with a steam roller, or use the mouse for golf practice. In your dreams, of course.


The following information and statistics on computer rage was taken from the Computer Rage, Anxiety and Phobia (C.R.A.P.) website.

Experts and employee welfare professionals attribute the meteoric rise of CRAP syndrome to lack of proper IT training. This workplace stress agent not only costs productivity, it also leaves a trail of irrational computer damage and loss of anger control by workers driven to the brink of cyber insanity.

The findings of a recent British workplace study, the Rage Against The Machine report, reveal that nearly half of all 1250 computer users surveyed are constantly feeling uptight about the inordinate amount of time it takes to solve work problems.

Fed-up technophobes are blowing their short fuses in fits of computer rage. Nearly a quarter of the workers surveyed complained about their work being regularly disrupted due to computer crashes and other IT faults.

CRAP-afflicted workers, 40% of whom blame computer jargon for exacerbating their cyber stress, are losing their professional cool with each new software or system upgrade. 80% of the survey respondents reported witnessing their stressed-out colleagues spitting the dummy or throwing spectacular technophobic tantrums.  

The following was taken from Neil Slade's website.   He is a webmaster and moderator that has experienced computer rage and offers a layman's insight about the world of computer rage.

Like Road Rage, Computer Rage seems to be the result of a technological environment that allows certain individuals to suddenly let forth a burst of hostility that would be normally held under control or suppressed.

The target of rage is pelted with insult and injury far greater than can be truly rationalized. It's Apes on Crack.

Rather than just change the "channel", this person feels that "Yes! I will tell this person (me) they are so completely full of s-it, and I will tell them in a way that deliberately hurts them and I'll feel better and POWERFUL!" It is rage that technology has made safe. Computer Rage.

Using a computer, people will say things and say them in a way that they would never say person to person. It is the venting of frustration, disappointment, and failure that suddenly finds a target that apparently can't strike back: One is raging at little dots on a glass screen--- so it's "okay". As in the "2 Minutes Hate", a computer rage delivers a temporary sense of release and relief, but a deeper examination will show nothing is really solved and the source of anger lies within the individual with his/her inability to cope or guide one's life situation.

Involving yourself in such computer hijinks instantly shuts off all higher intelligence that your brain is capable of, rational evaluation, creativity, intuition, and even access to your brain's paranormal activity. You can feel the higher centers of the brain shut down as you get dumber and dumber, adding insult to insult.


So What Does This All Mean?

I recall feeling helpless and lost in my bout with computer rage.  I thought I was computer literate enough but in the end, inexperience on my part caused my rage.  I didn't want it to happen again so I made sure I knew how to logically solve and troubleshoot computer malfunctions.  I did this by enrolling in an ICS 101 course.  This course helped me immensely and I am grateful for taking it.  I also needed to put my pride aside and ask for help whenever I needed. 

In a world where rapid information technology development places incredible demands on humans, we are bound to suffer computer rage.  As our lives become more and more dependent on computers, we need to be aware of our own anxieties with the information technology age so frustration, helplessness and lack of control will be avoided and/or attended to.  Proper IT training, logical trouble shooting and a little patience goes a long way.  Don't be afraid to push the buttons on your computer to become acquainted with it.  After all, you don't want it to be the reverse and have the computer push your buttons.  Just remember, the only buttons to push are the ones on your computer and they are only as effective as the person using it.


A Psychological View on Computer Rage from the Symantec website.

"Computer Abuse" taken from an article on the ninemsn.com website.  Link to original.

Computer Rage, Anxiety and Phobia (C.R.A.P.) website.  Link to original.

Neil Slade's website on computer rage.   Link to original.


Episode #1: Noisy Neighbor Rage Episode #3: Parking Lot Rage

Psy 409 Class Home Page

Report 2 Introduction

The Rage Epidemic - Report 1

Caroline's Home Page


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