Notes from a Floating Life Thoughts about productivity, digital living, and leading a simpler life

It's Not a Backlash Against Technology

In September 2013, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released the results of a survey that found 1 in 7 (or about 15%) of Americans don’t use the internet. I posted a link to an article on that survey on App.net with the following comment:

And is that a bad thing?

From the reaction of some of the people who replied to that post, and from a few acquaintances via email, it seems that it is. Mixed in with the replies and comments were references to Luddites and of that 15% of the American population being afraid of technology.

Those are the kinds of responses that I’ve been hearing to that sort of survey or opinion since the mid 1990s.

For the most part, I don’t think this sort of thing is a backlash against technology. For the most part, I don’t think it’s motivated by fear or finances or hatred of technology.

Sure, there are people who can’t afford a computer or internet service. And there are some people who are intimidated by technology. But they’re hardly the majority. Instead, I see this as an expression of what that 15% needs and what’s important to them.

As difficult as it may be to believe, some people don’t need to be constantly connected. They don’t need to use technology for every little act or task in their lives. Some people lead rich, fulfilling lives without being online.

One person who responded to my posting on App.net wrote:

It’s weird. My dad helped build computers back in the day and did a lot of CAE at his university. Since he’s retired he’s become a luddite. He uses the internet, but very rarely and not to it’s full ability.

Who’s to say that using the internet to it’s full ability (whatever that means) is what some people want or need to do? Checking email, reading online publications, and doing some shopping or watching videos might just be the level which many people want and need to use the internet. For them, that’s using the internet to its full ability.

There’s nothing wrong with that. You can’t view someone’s use of technology (or anything else) through the filters of your experience and your actions. Not everyone’s motivation is the same. Not everyone needs to be online all the time. Not everyone feels the need to be constantly connected. Not everyone needs to wring every last bit of performance out of an application. They use technology to the level that suits them.

Remember that people lived and thrived without the internet and smartphones and tablets for centuries. They got things done, and their lives weren’t (always) brutish.

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