Revolution of the High-Tech Luddites

terrie YAMO

I’ve been a dork all my life, but I’m still just barely a geek. I love the toys (DVR, nano, anything from Adobe); I fear the code.

My boyfriend, a.k.a. “The BF”, who has about 20 extra computing years on me (but is a year younger, damn him) also likes the toys but is very, very good with the code. A genius, in fact. No, seriously, it’s been quantified. He also has greater facility with the pen tool, better hair, AND a penis. If I couldn’t cook, I’d kill myself.

The point is, dude knows his way around a computer. He’d better; he owns seven of them. (I think. I officially lost count on Sunday after we brought the new 17″ PowerBook home from Fry’s.) Yet from Day One (and I know this, because I have the emails to prove it) he described himself as a “high-tech Luddite”. I chuckled to myself reading that way back when, and made a mental note to have sex with him as soon as possible because that shit is HOT.

Anyway, ten months later, I’m marveling over not only how right he was, but how right on. Code isn’t the enemy; coding, like writing or painting or…cooking, might even be considered useful in some circles. It’s the shiny object factor of computers that’ll bring you to your knees.

The way I see it is this: back when I was 10, I had a prodigious creative output. In addition to going to school full-time and maintaining close relationships with an elite but good-sized circle, I taught myself to draw, kept a diary, sent letters, wrote horrible plays I forced my cousins to act in, and not only administrated but provided news coverage for an entire doll village of 50 (in three columns…with a t-y-p-e-w-r-i-t-e-r).

How did I manage to do all of this and still have time to ruin my eyes reading under the covers?

Well, there was none of that pesky cooking to get in the way, to be sure, but there was also the now-quaint practice of doing one thing at a time. You wouldn’t think of talking on the phone while you watched TV while you did your homework because: (a), you’d get your butt stomped for not taking your homework seriously; (b), you’d get your butt stomped for hogging the phone when there might be an important long distance call coming in; and (c), you’d get your butt stomped for having the TV on, period.

Compare this, if you will, to today’s scenario: me, at the G5, on hold with the phone company, watching (insert crappy TV show here) playing in the upper-left hand corner of the screen, listening to (insert crappy talk radio show here) playing on the radio, updating the ER website as I back up files to the external hard drive, peeling off every now and then to stir whatever’s (yes) cooking on the stove.

Maybe I will kill myself.

Or maybe I will just say “no”. No, I don’t need a second digital cable box hooked up to the computer. No, I can’t realistically keep up with 45 feeds*. No, having 10 different email accounts (at last count) isn’t making life easier; it’s making things exponentially more complex, which is making me exponentially more scattered and anxious.

I’ve talked about paring down my offline crap; now it’s time to tackle the electronic focus-fracturers. No more slave to the electronic overlords, I; from now on, it’s Paul Ford‘s Amish Computing all the way.

My escape plan combines elements of the methodology laid out by the geek bible, Getting Things Done, by David Allen mixed with tips I’ve culled from my online brethren (Lifehacker, Lifehack, 43 Folders) to help me in my quest.

Call it irony if you will; I think of it as poetic justice.



*Pared down from 71 at the start of this post because of the deep, deep shame I felt upon seeing this hideously high number.

Photo of dork playing a dork in a dorky play taken by some yearbook geek from E.T.H.S. circa 1978


  1. But doesn’t all that multi-tasking at the very least make us feel like we’re so much more efficient? I mean, look at me! I’m talking on the phone, participating in a web seminar, sporadically checking email, and surfing blogs. What could be more efficient? But I admire your attempt to break free from the electronic tyranny. Next you’ll be rendering lard to make candles and smoking your own meats.

  2. I read “71 feeds” and “10 email accounts” and could only think: only 71?? :) And I totally see myself as a Luddite…despite the Bloglines and blogging and audioblogging and (god help me) finally figuring out podcasting. We all have our limits…I suppose mine’s the the iPod. We don’t even own one, and I live with a musician…I refuse to join the cult. That’s my telltale sign…if I find myself wandering through life wearing little white earphones, I’ll know I’ve crossed over…

  3. Mmmm…lard…

    Marilyn, the thing about the iPod that’s really great is podcasts (and music, too) in the car. I use my nano for walks, too — so nice and light! — but I won’t use anything for exercise since I read somewhere that your eardrums are more sensitive to sound during exercise.

    Not that I exercise, of course.

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