I’ve lost count of the number of friends who have urged
me, “You have to be on Facebook!”
Uh, no ... I don’t.
I don’t “connect” with “friends” on Facebook, tweet on
Twitter or spend my days browsing social sites. Even if I had such
inclinations, I’m too busy.
And I’m an electronic rebel.
As a self-employed writer, I’m not anti-technology: My
desktop computer, laptop, email and Internet are frequent companions. My
website introduces new editors/clients to my work, and when someone asks
“What kind of writing do you do?” instead of getting into time-sucking
lengthy conversations, I direct them to www.audreythingley.com.
I do research online instead of
spending hours at a library, and I can email an article to an editor in the
blink of an eye. But I don’t obsessively check email, and in fact advise
friends and clients alike if something is really important, call me.
I don’t text or bank online. I
don’t have a debit card. I write paper checks for bills and get check images
with bank statements. Just the other day, when an acquaintance extolled the
virtues of electronic banking and bill-paying, I told her about friends
who’ve experienced identity theft and the article I’d read about a $120 bill
being (mistakenly) electronically paid as $12,000, wiping out a customer’s
account. (Yes, the mistake was rectified, but it took three months for the
customer to get the money returned ... thanks, but no thanks.) I use the
world of cyberspace, but I don’t trust it.
Most importantly, I want to have a life and as much as
possible, real human interaction. I refuse to be tethered to the
newest/latest/greatest electronic gadget 24/7.
I don’t download music and I don’t need 10,000 songs on an
iPod. I collect music CDs by artists whose music I love and enjoy listening
to entire projects; often songs on a CD not released as singles are better
than downloadable so-called “hits.”
I’ve switched to digital photography but I still print
pictures and enjoy photo albums.
I read — and buy — real books, newspapers and magazines. I
read articles online too, but I would hate it if the entire publishing world
went totally electronic. I love the smell and feel of paper and books. When
traveling, I fill a tote bag with books and magazines; I don’t want to take
an electronic device to the beach. For books I want to read but not buy, the
public library is free.
Although I love writing on my computer, I’m also a fan of
pen and paper: this article had its beginnings on a yellow legal pad. Most
writers go back and forth between pen/pad and computer; some, like Joyce
Carol Oates, author of more than 50 novels, still write all their books in
longhand, even as 41 states have omitted cursive handwriting from their
Experts say the pressure many people feel to be constantly
connected is taking a toll, personally and professionally. Books and classes
have emerged for “cyber addicts” who need help breaking electronic
addictions. Reports cite productivity losses for business, and personal
issues for those who feel they must be “connected” all the time. Sometimes
it almost seems laughable: I’ve seen people text each other when they could
literally walk into the next room and communicate in person. I’m sure some
sort of “texting-finger syndrome” is the next disorder on the horizon.
One day a few years back, on an outdoor restaurant deck in
Florida overlooking the beautiful Gulf of Mexico, complete with jumping
dolphins and nature’s beauty, a young boy seated near me never once looked
up from his hand-held electronic device, ignoring this Eden-like setting in
favor of a fake electronic world.
Computers and the digital world, like previous inventions
(printing press, telegraph, radio and television), can help or hinder,
depending on how they are used. Technology provides us with great tools —
but tools are not a replacement for real friends, real relationships and
life in the real world.
I might be too busy for Facebook but if you really need
me, I’ll be there. For me, that’s what being an e-rebel is all about.
This column is meant
to provoke thought, so we welcome reader comments. Send e-mail to:
email@example.com (please enter “Perspective” in subject line), or send
written responses to Cooperative Living, Perspective, Attn. Bill
Sherrod, P.O. Box 2340, Glen Allen, VA 23058-2340.