What is future shock?

Kathryn Wheeler
By Kathryn Wheeler,
updated on Jan 4, 2021

What is future shock?

Feeling left behind and overwhelmed by the unwavering forward-motion of technology? You’re not alone. Learn how to mentally log off and reconnect with reality

Technology: it’s the all-consuming, ever-evolving, attention-needing force that rules our lives. And it’s developing at an incredible rate.

Our days are saturated with emojis, browsers, hangouts, hashtags, cookies, clickbait, influencers, passwords, hyperlinks, cyberspace, pins, posts, likes, follows, IMO – AITA?

Overwhelmed? You’re not alone, and you might actually be experiencing a phenomenon called ‘future shock’.

The term ‘future shock’ was first coined by Alvin Toffler and Adelaide Farrell in their 1970 book of the same name. Together, they explore how the concept can impact individuals and entire societies alike, and their own concise description is: “Too much change in too short a period of time”.
“The only constant, is change,” says Chris Mounsher, a humanistic counsellor interested in how technology touches our lives. “But, while this is a truism, it doesn’t make it any easier to manage.”

The fundamental experience of future shock is a sense of disorientation, and it’s easy to see how that happens. Just look at the iPhone: to date, 29 iterations have been unveiled since 2007, each promising to offer you more than the one before. And social media is the same, with a constant stream of new platforms.


“This change in information and technology has brought huge benefits in communication, medicine, clean energy, and countless other areas,” says Chris. “However, fundamentally we are the same human beings that, a few hundred years ago, spent much of our days farming fields and working the land – we have no natural defence for information overload.”

All this will, of course, impact our mental health. You might feel anxious when faced with new tech, overwhelmed by the constant barrage of notifications, and a sense of never really logging off. Or, Chris points out, you could feel left behind as targeted advertising suggests everyone else is jumping on the latest bandwagon.

“In reality, most of us aren’t early adopters of technology and change,” Chris explains. “We are content with what we have, and don’t feel the need to upgrade until our hand is forced. But a sense of anxiety comes through feeling that you’re not in charge of the process.”

Luckily, there are steps you can take to tackle these feelings, as Chris explains. But what’s vital to know is that you do have a choice, whatever your push-notifications may be telling you.

A guide to tackling future shock

Humanistic counsellor Chris Mounsher shares his top tips:

Get to know yourself

When the world is hammering on the windows, demanding attention, it can be difficult to focus on you. But it’s essential. Think about the hopes and dreams you had when you were younger. What dreams do you have now? What’s important to you? The answers to these questions will help you find your own path again.

Find a balance

Technology has both benefits and costs, so work out which are the biggest benefits for you, and which are the biggest costs. You may connect with your closest friends on WhatsApp, so that stays, but perhaps flicking through heated arguments and curated lives on social media for an hour a day could be replaced with something more nourishing.

Reach out

If you’re struggling, tell someone. You are not the only one. Friends and family help connect you with your past, and represent a consistency that is sorely needed at times. Being in contact with your support network can help you gain a well-needed sense of being grounded.

No one, save a few dreamers in Silicon Valley, can predict where technology will take us in the future. And while it enhances our lives in many ways, if you’re finding tech overwhelming, remind yourself of the things that you can touch, see, smell, and taste in the world around you. Sip on a rich coffee, dance to your favourite tune, and hold a loved one close. Remember that all it takes is a push of a button, and you’re back to reality.

Chris Mounsher is a humanistic counsellor with experience working with anxiety, addiction, depression, low self-esteem, and relationship difficulties.

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