DCPLive is a blog by library staff at the DeKalb County Public Library!
Mar 6 2018

Are You A Luddite?

by Camille B

technophobe 2

So what exactly is a Luddite?  Is it, a) A type of religion? b) Some form of igneous rock or stone? Or is it c) A person opposed to increased or new technology?

Well if you’re like me, your first answer was probably a or b. Because doesn’t it sound very much like some type of religious order or semi-precious stone? When in truth and in fact the answer is c, a person who is- not just opposed to technology- but is downright hostile towards it.

A Luddite can be your Uncle Bob who refuses to be harassed into updating his rotary phone for a cell- not even a push button one. Or your mother, bless her heart, who presses the buttons on the computer like they’re hot, all the while reminiscing about the good old days of pen and paper.

The origination of the word Luddite came about in 1811 during the British Industrial Uprising, when skilled workers, who mostly worked in the textile industry, attacked the automated, steam-powered looms that were threatening to replace them. It is said that the workers got their inspiration from the fabled General Ludd (King Ludd), who lived in the Sherwood forest and supposedly led the movement.

The Luddites feared that the new machines were going to replace them and cut their wages, since factory owners were hiring less-skilled workers to operate them at a lower pay rate. They fought with government soldiers and sent threatening letters to their employers, attacking them as well as magistrates and food merchants. They also carried out nighttime raids, breaking into factories and destroying the new machinery by smashing them with sledgehammers.

The breaking of the machines spread to the West Yorkshire wool workers as well as the Lancashire cotton mills, and these workers followed the same pattern, even going as far as burning down some of the mills; eventually leading to machine breaking becoming a capital offence.

Today, the meaning of the word Luddite has taken on a slightly different meaning. It is now used to describe a person who, while they may not break their computer screen or smartphone in anger, has a certain fear or dread towards modern technology. A more familiar word would be a technophobe.

We can all think of someone who falls into this category, be it a family member, friend or co-worker. Just the thought of having to use a new machine or gadget causes them to break out in a cold sweat. They would rather leave well enough alone and stick to what they know.

Some of these individuals may not own a computer or even know how to use one. They don’t text, and they read all of their news from the newspapers. They still use paper maps even though they have a GPS, and they would never be found standing in self-check out lines.

Even in the workplace you have individuals who are hesitant and sometimes downright reluctant to “get with the program.” A new machine or program is introduced, and they disappear like clockwork whenever an occasion arises to use them. You’re seriously beginning to worry about Craig and what’s causing him to run off to the restroom every half an hour, and are getting just a little peeved with Margaret for taking so many breaks back to back, when it suddenly dawns on you that the new copy machine came in on Monday. The one with all those fancy buttons. It needs to be avoided at all costs.

So how do you assist people who are afraid of, or have a strong aversion to new technology? Well first of all, maybe the reason behind their reluctance should first be identified, because I’m sure that not all of it is stubbornness.

Is it an irrational fear? Or is it justifiable? Maybe they’ve had a bad experience using new technology in the past that has left them a little weary. Maybe they’re embarrassed or uncomfortable  because they figure that they should know how to use it.

This is one of the main reasons I believe many people shy away from embracing new technology. No-one likes to seem incompetent in front of others, and so would rather feign knowledge or avoid an embarassing situation all together.

As library staff we interact with patrons everyday who come in to use our computers, printers and copy machines. They can sometime get pretty nervous or anxious if they’re not quite sure about what they’re doing, approaching the machines like they would a swarm of bees.

But these same people, if you let them know that 1) it’s really not that hard, and 2) there are some things that you yourself are still learning, they immediately relax. They realize you’re not judging and are there to help, and so they open up a little more to embrace what you’re showing them.

Also, a person struggling with new technology would probably find it harder to learn from someone who is a technophile and delights in new technology. The techie’s mantra is, the newer the better. Gizmos, gadgets, digital thingies, it belongs in their world and they’re fluent is all things tech related. So while grandma is still trying to remember the password to the Yahoo account she created yesterday, Junior has already retrieved the code from her cell phone and is already typing it in.

Overall, patience and a simple approach is needed in dealing with a person who is technologically challenged. Anything that’s perceived to be harder than it really is will be met with resistance. Better small steps than no steps at all.

Below is a list of books at DCPL to help you get a hang of some of the gadgets you possess but never use.


Teach yourself visually Android  phones and tablets– Guy Hart-Davis

Android tablets for dummies– Dan Gookin

Overdrive at DCPL provides eBooks and downloadable audiobooks.

Book 2

Laptops for seniors in easy steps: Windows 10- Nick vandome

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