I’m all about new technology: space travel, uploading consciousness, connecting to each other via increasingly sophisticated means. But I also recognize the value in technological traditionalism.
That is to say, I enjoy keeping up with the ultra-modern. The edgy. The ‘next big thing.’ But I also like to hand-write sometimes, rather than thumb-typing on a touchscreen. I sometimes enjoy the feel of an artisanal whatever, over the mass-produced-but-technologically-sophisticated alternative.
But whether I’m stepping forward or back, opting for the future, the past, or somewhere in between, I try to be as educated as possible about my decision. I do my best to understand why I might use some new social network, or why I might jot notes with a pen and paper, rather than software that syncs between my devices. Should I use a payment processor that plugs into my phone? Or should I just accept cash? There are pros and cons in both directions, and I work hard to understand them in order to make the best possible decision.
There are two strangely oppositional movements going on right now: One that would have you on the edge of all new things, and one that prefers you step back and simplify. The first would have you jumping on board every new app and smart device, and the second would have you do away with anything digital, opting instead for the analog version of everything.
There’s no right or wrong path, and that’s a good thing. It means you can choose the direction that makes the most sense for you, or an optimal mix of the two (which is where most people will be most comfortable and best served).
Before you can find your spot on the spectrum, however, you need to understand your options.
It’s fine to look at technology, advancing at a breakneck pace, and to put your hands up defensively, step back slowly, and retreat to a cabin in the woods, chopping your own firewood and communicating by landline (or smoke signals).
It’s equally acceptable to jump on every new bandwagon, eschewing the past in favor of a brighter future, where problems are solved with the clever application of know-how and advanced technology.
But either way, you’ll be best off knowing what you’re giving up.
If you learn about and understand the newest devices and apps and then decide to stop using them, your opinion is more valid than the person who flees to the countryside, ignorant of what they’re leaving behind. If you won’t take the time to learn how to turn on your computer, your opinion that the ‘internet is just a trend’ is of dubious value.
Similarly, someone who knows all about the simple life and chooses to adopt a more tech-centric lifestyle has a better sense of what tradeoffs they’re making in order to be on the edge. Their justifications carry more weight than someone who was born into tech and has always clung to it. If you’ve never gone without a mobile phone or WiFi signal, don’t try and tell me there are no benefits to disconnecting from time-to-time.
There is no right or wrong place on the spectrum, and your specific shade of grey will be unique to you.
But before choosing a camp because it seems fun or sexy or whatever, do a little footwork so you’re making an informed decision, not just a safe, comfortable, or easy one; be an intentional luddite or a deliberate techie.
You may find that your actual shade of grey is different than you assumed, once you take the time to look at it closely.
Update: April 12, 2017
Balance is key. Also: remembering that your choices in this matter will not be right for everyone.