When Technology Does More Bad than Good: Technostress in Missionary Contexts


  • David Dunaetz


Today’s missionaries have means of communication available to them that previous generations of missionaries could never have imagined. They have computers, smartphones, tablets, and countless apps which let them easily communicate with the people whom they serve, the home office, their supporting churches and individuals, their banks, government officials, providers of commercial services, and other missionaries. The speed and potential efficiency of communication between people in different places far exceed what was available in the past. Yet communication through modern electronic technology comes with a cost. This cost includes the financial cost of purchasing the necessary equipment and subscriptions and, under some circumstances, a social cost when compared to the richness of face-to-face communication, as well as a psychological cost due to the stress induced by the widespread use of electronic technology.

This stress has come to be known as technostress, a broad term describing the “negative impact on attitudes, thoughts, behaviors, or body physiology that is caused either directly or indirectly by technology” (Weil and Rosen 1997, 5). This phenomenon describes anything from social pressure to master a new social media to the pain of installing a new printer to tensions felt by parents when their teen is using a cell phone at an inappropriate time. It occurs anytime that technology causes a person to feel uncomfortable, especially because they are not sure of how to best respond. For missionaries, technostress can be a daily occurrence, whether it be a never-empty email inbox, the use of new social media in ministry, directives from the home office to use a new app, an untimely update of an app, or the difficulties that accompany a poorly worded or missent text message.