The Human Option
"To De-tech." Besides being an awkward verb, it's also an amusing notion, in a way. It brings to mind those groups who have eschewed the modern world in favour of horse-drawn carts, raising livestock and churning butter. I myself have received email from people --even from journalists-- who somehow believe that I have abandoned technology. Besides the obvious facts that I run a website and answer email in the first place, it's a little ridiculous to think that I'm sitting in a backwoods cabin creating my to-do lists with a quill pen by the light of a lantern. My story becomes far less interesting when I tell them that I spend a goodly portion of my waking hours in front of a computer.
Ah, but there's the rub! And one of the main reasons why I want to de-tech, just a little. Sometimes you just have to break away from the commonplace, stretch your legs, meander outside, take in a little air, and glance around to gain a little perspective on matters.
Sure, if you start using paper again, you'll probably save money, rediscover your ability to focus, and won't have to fret about the constant aggravations of constantly upgrading and fighting with technical issues daily. And you'll create and use materials that can last a lifetime, instead of becoming obsolete in a few months. But neither of these is the main reason for de-teching. In fact, it's so obvious that we often overlook it: a hundred hours a week interfacing with a machine can be dehumanising.
So, maybe you've reached this same conclusion. Perhaps, you think, it's time to de-tech a little, to while away a few less hours with computers and gadgets, and instead invest that time reading a little Hemingway or Gabriel Garcia Marquez, or hand-writing or sketching your thoughts on paper, or just relaxing with a nice steaming cup of tea or coffee while staring at the scene outside the window, alone in a quiet place with your own uncluttered and uninterrupted mind as an erstwhile companion.
But it's a big step, isn't it? And you can see all sorts of problems arising. What if someone sends you a vitally important email? What if there's a major breaking news story you don't hear? What if someone asks you a question that you need the Net to answer? And that roast in the oven, where do I find out how long it's supposed to cook? Oh, dear... you don't know if this is something you can do. The shakes have begun, delirium tremens caused by an unrealised addition seizing your nerves, boiling your brain, racing your heart.
It's perfectly natural to have doubts about any sort of lifestyle change, however minor. The best thing you can do right now, though, is to keep things in perspective. After all, this isn't like quitting a job or getting married: you can undo and tweak any changes as you go along. Life is a process of experimentation, and as long as you're a creative individual, you'll constantly be experimenting. Don't worry about it: loosen up and have fun. The idea is to remove limits, not set them.
The best advice I can possibly give those people looking to the "Analog Revolution" for some sort of salvation or release from their shackles: don't take anything too seriously --it's not a religion, or even an idealogical movement-- and don't look at de-teching as an all-or-nothing affair. Keep your mind open, and don't automatically assume that technology must or must not be used to solve your issues and lead a creative and productive life.
Given our reliance on computers for most things, attempting an analog --and more human-- option is a worthwhile endeavour, if only to discover what is possible in a technological age.