I recognize that I’m a bit different. In fact, some might say I’m strange, due to my technophilia: my love of technology. But that’s okay. I think those who suffer from the opposite, from technophobia—from ludditism—are the ones who are actually strange. On social media and elsewhere I’ve recently noticed an encouragement from such folk to “unplug” for a day—by which is meant turning off your cellphones, shutting down your computers, and setting aside your tablets.
I frankly can’t see the sense to that.
To me, it sounds like “why don’t we put aside our newspapers” or “let’s all pledge not to use our insulin” or “let’s skip drinking any beverage that has been refrigerated.”
I suppose the technophobes who have embraced this idea believe people are too attached, too dependent upon these newfangled gadgets. Or something of the sort. And that’s why it seems odd to me.
My job is dependent upon me using my computer. For me, my computer is a tool, just like a hammer might be a tool for a carpenter, or a wrench the tool of a plumber, or a combine the tool of a farmer. Would anyone suggest a carpenter stop using his power saw for a day? Should a car mechanic stop using air powered tools? Should we go back to writing with quill pens and dipping them in ink while we scribble on parchment? Ditch books and replace them with scrolls or better yet, clay tablets? Maybe give up anesthesia and go back to white knuckling it as the dentist hopes he can find out what is wrong with our teeth without resorting to x-rays to see why that back molar is hurting?
Should we give up our weather satellites and just hope for the best during hurricane season? Who needs to know what’s forming out there in the Atlantic? Let’s just unplug for a day and think happy thoughts.
Technophobia makes no sense to me; I simply don’t understand it. And I run across it frequently. Sometimes it is someone telling me that they don’t like taking medicine—big pharma’s just in it to gouge us don’t you know? Meanwhile, they drop a small fortune on vitamins and herbs, homeopathic medicines, essential oils and books from people who certainly aren’t in it just to make a profit. Other, equally irrational people try to explain that vaccination is bad, but fail to notice that small pox no longer exists because of it and no one has to live in an iron lung anymore since the polio vaccine came along.
Technophobia is irrational, and it is based on emotion, often the emotion of fear: fear of what people don’t understand, fear of what is new. I find the attitude impossible to fathom myself.
And it isn’t a generational thing. My wife works as a public school teacher, and she has faced resistance to the use of computers and other new technology in the classroom and elsewhere from teachers her own age and younger. She was one of the first teachers in her school—in her district even—to use a computer in her classroom or to use her computer for keeping track of the grades for her students. She is constantly taking workshops, going to seminars, to learn new things, new techniques—and finds endless opposition and resistance among her colleagues, old and young alike.
She remains the only teacher at her school who drives an electric car. And I find visceral hatred of electric vehicles expressed in social media and elsewhere, which again I find incomprehensible: an electric car costs less to operate, has less maintenance (far fewer moving parts: twenty compared to the 10,000 in a typical gasoline powered vehicle)—but somehow electric cars are evil in the minds of many; and the opposition against them spans age and political persuasion.
People try to explain to me how they don’t like e-books and how much they prefer the old fashioned kind because they smell good and because of how they feel. But I don’t understand. Yes, the smell of old books is pleasant, and yes, I too like how they feel. My house is overflowing with ordinary books; my office is lined on all four walls, floor to ceiling with them. In fact, I own in excess of three thousand physical books that I’ve accumulated over my lifetime. And yet, I now buy e-books almost exclusively. In fact, I am disappointed if a book is unavailable as an e-book. I don’t miss the smell or feel of the physical books. When I’m reading, I don’t think about the feel or the smell of a book—a physical object. Instead, I’m lost in the story, carried away by the author’s imagination. The physical medium of the book matters not at all to me.
And when it comes to using nonfiction books, doing research—the electronic medium saves me so much time and effort that the thought of “unplugging” and having to go back to card catalogues, thumbing pages and scanning indexes in order to find the information, the quotations, the bibliographic notation I need is terrifying. I well remember having to type and retype papers, using whiteout, and struggling to leave just enough room at the bottom of a page for the footnotes—or having to type in a quotation slowly rather than just cutting and pasting it. Those are not pleasant memories.
Preparing a sermon for my church each week, studying a passage, finding related passages, locating a verse or chapter in the Bible is so much easier with the electronic version of the Bible I use that I can barely remember how it was back in the day before I had access to such a marvel.
So thank you, but no. I’ll unplug when you pull my computer keyboard away from my cold dead fingers.