Friday, March 30, 2012

Better Off?

Imagine a world with little to no technological or electrical assistance. A world free from laptops, ipads, smart phones, cable TV, wash machines, vacuum cleaners, lawn mowers and many of the other toys and conveniences that surround us.  Eric Brende, author of Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology, not only imagined this world but took the plunge and decided to live in it for over a year.
       I am definitely no stranger to this type of lifestyle. Not because I have lived it myself but because my dad grew up in the Old Order Amish and lived this life until he was 18 when he decided to set out on his own.  I spent much of my growing up years visiting, staying with, and enjoying the times I had with my dad's family. I can't say I ever revelled in the idea of going without electricity during our visits, especially not when I was a vain teenager who had to somehow manage without every single hair appliance on the market. However, because I was familiar with this lifestyle I never really thought of it as a novelty but just the way they are. Just something some people do.
       When I was formulating my book list for this year I was drawn to this book because of all the technological clutter that fills my life. I was not particularly looking for or thinking about life without electricity. I was more thinking that I needed a good reminder of what life was like before I spent my time surfing the web, checking facebook, texting my friends and envying the person sitting beside me using their ipad. You see, I am technologically bi-polar. On one hand, if I could afford it, I would run out and purchase every gadget that is out there. I was drooling over the new Ipad 3 and I have spent many a conversation with my husband on practical reasons why I might NEED a smart phone. On the other hand, I find myself wanting to run away from it all. Wanting to bury my phone in the backyard. Wanting to pack my computer up and leave it in storage for a few months.
          It's just that sometimes my life feels so cluttered. My thoughts feel cluttered with all the information that is streaming through them and surrounding me at every minute. There are the countless amounts of facebook status updates that I somehow feel a need to keep informed about. There are the many texts and e-mails that I feel compelled to read and answer this instant (not later when I actually might have more time).  If I don't answer them more just keep coming and then I have to wrestle with the fact that I never got back to so and so and they really needed an answer.
  There's not only my phone but my husband's, which is ever buzzing, ringing, and chiming with new e-mails, voicemails and texts. I find myself wondering what it was like before our worlds were so full of technological clutter.
      Just recently we were out on a date and my husband excused himself. I found myself sitting alone in the booth and during what was only minutes of him being gone I felt like I should be doing something. So I pick up my phone (which is not even a smart phone) and start texting just because I had a quiet minute. Why couldn't I just sit there quietly and just take a few moments without communication?
       When I picked up the book I found myself "amening" the sentiments the author was expressing, which very much reflected my own. Still it was not exactly that I was looking for. I'm not ready to live without electricity and don't necessarily feel like that is the answer. I am however ready to read about someone who got rid of the internet (in fact that seems more extreme to me right now than getting rid of electricity).  I am not a farmer or a gardner and truth be told I am not drawn to becoming either of those. I try to garden but definitely don't relish it and I absolutely love living in town. I am also not quite ready to go without my cell phone and obviously since I am posting this on my blog which I will then post on facebook and twitter that means I am not ready to go without my computer or internet.
       Still, there is a part of me that sighs at all of this. A part that feels like something is missing when our family gets together and everyone is listening to their ipods, surfing their smart phones, posting pics on facebook and watching youtube on their laptops. Have we lost something? During an age when there is more communication than any other previous age what are we saying? Who are we communicating with? Are we forgetting about the person sitting next to us, the legitimate need we just heard about on Sunday or the neighbor who is struggling to lug his trash to the street in an effort to reach out to the one who lives in California and we only met once at a wedding?
       These are the things I wrestle with and will continue to do so I'm afraid. The worst thing is I would not argue if my husband bought me a smart phone.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

I was nodding the whole way through this post Mary. Love/hate is definitely how I would describe my relationship with technology!