Computers are damaging our health, thanks to rising stress levels induced by so-called 'PC pests' like spam, pop up ads and viruses.
More than four in five (86 per cent) of British computer users get irritated and stressed by PC problems, according to a survey commissioned by security firm Symantec. Only 14 per cent of those quizzed had the Zen-like calm to say problems with their PCs never irritate them.
The survey of 500 UK adults, conducted by Ipsos Research, came up with five irritants most likely to make a user’s blood boil. In order of annoyance these were: slow performance and system crashes (cited as worst irritant by 23 per cent of those quizzed); "spam, scams and too much email" (20 per cent); pop up advertisements (15 per cent); viruses (14 per cent) and files getting lost or deleted (four per cent).
And just as different PC pests annoy people in different ways, so our reactions vary from mild annoyance to extreme anger.
According to the survey, 39 per cent of us are likely to have an extreme reaction to computer-induced stress, including "swearing, shouting and even violence". Pressing random keys out of sheer frustration "in an attempt to make something happen" is also a popular response to problems.
And while 40 per cent of us will go for the pragmatic approach - looking to resolve a problem ourselves or seeking help from others - almost one in five of us will eventually give up on their machines when problems arise.
A quarter of respondents admitted that computers failed to make their lives easier and said they are "not worth the hassle". Furthermore, a third of the respondents are suffering from "PC paranoia", admitting that they sometimes feel as though their computers are “getting the better of them".
Mike Fisher, training director at The British Association of Anger Management, commented: "As Symantec's research reveals, stress brought on by PC pests can all too easily turn to anger, which is not only unpleasant, but will impact on those around us and inhibit our productivity.
"If you are suffering from stress, the best thing to do is breathe deeply, remind yourself to keep your cool and take a break from your computer for a few minutes," he advises.
Symantec has come up with a number of top tips for dealing with PC pests, before stress levels get out of control:
- Look after your hard drive - check the integrity of your hard drive to avoid irregularities in the way your PC stores files and defrag to ensure that files are not saved in fragments.
- Clean up after yourself - remove unnecessary web clutter such as Internet history files, cookies and cache.
- Back it up - back up your hard drive on a regular basis so that you are prepared if the worst does happen.
- Avoid viruses - Don't double click on attachments unless you know what they are and who they're from (D'oh).
- Use software to your advantage - utility software can check your hard drive's integrity, defrag it and remove clutter. Take advantage of spam filters and antivirus software, as well as firewalls to keep your personal information private and avoid the prying eyes of hackers.