Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Technology Overload

I wanted to blog about this article interviewing Eric Brende, a PhD student who lived in an Amish community for a year and wrote a book called Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology, for a while now. But, maybe appropriately, this past month I took a hiatus from my computer. I can't say that I haven't used my computer at all in the last month, but I've used it sparingly. I just finished a 15-month period of earning a masters degree online, which required me to practically live on my computer for over a year. I found that using technology for school lead to an increased usage of personal email, Facebook, and web surfing. I was starting to feel like this:

So, after I graduated, I decided to take a bit of a break from the computer. I thought it would be for a week, but that week turned into a month. My computer usage is picking up again today, but hopefully it will never return to the way it was this last year.

As Brende states in the article, even the Amish don't think that technology is inherently bad. When the telephone was invented, the Amish in Lancaster County used it, but only until they saw what problems it could cause. The Amish embrace the idea of community and relationships and found that the gossip that came from party line telephones was breaking apart their community. So, they decided to live without telephones.

Community cohesion is also the reason why the Amish don't use cars. When you have a car, you can travel far away and have contact with many different people. Their thought is that increasing the number of people you interact with lessens the depth of your interactions, which would then lessen the bonds of your community. ...Sounds a lot like Facebook to me.

Obviously, I am not writing a blog post saying that I do not like technology. There are many things I like about email, Facebook, and the web. I also have a cell phone (and a car). But, I see how over-usage of technology can lead to isolation, from both people I love and activities that I enjoy. As with so many things in life, I think it is all about awareness and balance. I thought about abandoning my blog to cut back on computer time, but decided that an all or nothing approach wasn't what I wanted. I will simply be more aware of the time I spend on the computer and then balance it with something else.

And now I'm going outside to take a walk.