Luddite, Lemming or Just Listening to a Different iPod Playlist?

On my dining room table sits a brand new iPhone, still in its packaging.  “You have to hand it to Apple,” I said when it arrived. “They sure do know design.” The box, the compartments for accessories, the origami-folded envelope with instructions, the sleek iPhone — so distinctly Applesque.

But so far, that’s the only positive thing I’ve had to say about the newest member of my burgeoning arsenal of things that go beep, whirr, and ding.

A friend affectionately called me a “luddite” recently — someone opposed to increased industrialization or new technology. In my mind, I see Gary Larson’s “lemmings”—unthinkingly joining a mass movement headlong. If I’m feeling particularly snarky I may mutter “resistance is futile” in my best sci-fi Borg impression.

Surely there is some middle ground. I am neither one who is completely opposed to technology — my very livelihood is dependent on it — nor am I one who has ever blindly or willingly followed the crowd.

The truth is, I have been happily typing and creating and designing and otherwise enjoying Apple’s inventions since before many of you even thought to own a computer in your home. I am an email addict, a devout blogger, and a writer and artist who relies on the internet and software applications to bring my ideas to fruition on a daily basis.

And yet…

And yet I am having a hard time being enthusiastic about this new wave of technology that we find ourselves caught up in — iPhones and iPads and iPods and iYeyYey.

I would not go so far as to agree with Albert Einstein, who said “I fear the day when the technology overlaps with our humanity. The world will only have a generation of idiots.” There is great potential in our technology to connect us with each other and with amazing and beautiful things.

But I just think we need time to catch up. Technology has far surpassed our current mores — our manners and etiquette, our boundaries, our budgets, our expectations. It has far surpassed mine, anyhow.

Last week I lost power for several days due to the hurricane that invaded the east coast. I suspect I was in a small circle of folks who celebrated the opportunity to be completely off the grid. I read a book. I did yoga. I napped. I went for two walks a day. I wrote in a spiral-bound journal.

“You know you can do those things any day,” a friend reminded me.  But can you? Can you when there are more and more and more distractions to plug into? Like the iPhone that is still sitting in its box on my dining room table? I don’t know.

I am reminded of a quote I read many, many years ago in high school when I felt as much out-of-step with my peers as I sometimes do now.

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer.” Henry David Thoreau wrote in Walden. “Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.”

They tell me there is an app for that:

• • •

©2012, Jen Payne with appreciation to Gary Larson (The Far Side) and the Star Trek franchise for the accompanying artwork.

4 thoughts on “Luddite, Lemming or Just Listening to a Different iPod Playlist?

  1. I totally agree that we need to allow ourselves to catch up to the changes in technology. We have yet to establish universal etiquette rules for cell phones (I’ve thought long and hard about this, mainly because I can’t stand it when people use those things in the movie theater!) and so many young people are becoming dependent on them to the point of forgetting how to think for themselves. That’s a little frightening to me! Our biggest challenge is establishing some kind of balance between relying on technology and unplugging.

    p.s. Love the Borg shot of Picard. That’s one of my favorite episodes. 🙂


    1. It’s very true! There is such a seduction about the technology…how it draws us in, makes us feel important, makes us forget common courtesies. Have you seen that cell service provider commercial “You Have a Right to Everywhereness”? The implication of that is dreadful – movie theater, hiking trail, yoga class? I think not!

      p.s. I have a big time crush on Jean Luc. Shhhh. Don’t tell anyone. ; )


  2. What can I say, Jen?
    Open the box!
    Pandora did, why not you? I have to tell you — I don’t have an iPad or an iPod — but I love my new iPhone. It was love at first sight and touch. You don’t have to talk loud on it. You can put it down and do something else. It’s very reticent, if that’s what you want. But it’s sleek and slick and —- adorable!
    (And adding insult to injury, maybe — I always secretly longed to play the drums, and now you’ve opened up my life with an app!)


    1. We’re getting used to each other. The thing is, because of my lifestyle, I am within reach of computers and phones and internets and all of the things that good beep and whirr and zip most of my waking day. To have one that follows me around otherwise is a bit redundant. There must be time – FOR ALL OF US – when we are unreachable, unclickable and otherwise disconnected from the hive mind.

      It is cute, though, and growing on me.


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