Thursday, February 10, 2005

The Restriction of Technology & Social Interaction

I finished reading Better Off last week. If you are thinking about picking up the book as well, then skip the next paragraph.

Basically, Eric Brende decided that giving up technology meant giving up the car, so they sold their car and bought a horse and buggy. Amazingly, they preferred it, since they were essentially restricted to a slower pace of life and dependence upon a small community. It didn't last, though, as it turns out that Mary Brende was allergic to horses, so they moved out and bought a small place in South Carolina, where they still practice the principles of minimizing technology. They don't hold regular jobs; rather, they sell soap, have a small B&B, and Eric drives a rickshaw around.

After the end of their experiment, Eric Brende went on to write this book. Essentially, he recommends that people minimize the use of technology in their life. For example, he wrote the book on a word processor instead of a computer.

Technology can be too much of a good thing. Although Brende does not say it explicitly, perhaps human beings were created and placed in a world which helped regulate his well being. It is often said that people can think more clearly with regular exercise, and the mind-body connection is constant in Eric's experience. There are really only three areas Brende thinks technology should be employed:

  1. Transportation (limited in frequency and only when low-tech options are not available)

  2. Communication (when distance or urgency limit the application of low-tech options)

  3. Labor-saving (when it is simply not possible to perform the labor without tech help)

As far as my reflection goes, I have gleaned some interesting nuggets from Better Off. Technology can be a distraction, both socially and spiritually. While I find it terribly convenient to have access to the information offered by the Internet, I am willing to sustain my evening and weekend fast from Internet access. For me, it would likely drive me to distraction, reducing social time with my Wifey-Pooh and friends.

As far as how little or how much technology to use, moderation appears to be key. It appears to me that Brende seeks to reduce the cost of living such that he can spend more time socializing. How much is too much? For me, it is when the technology starts costing money to maintain, and when it starts taking over your time. Minimitism requires commitment without fanaticism; I think the same thing applies to technology, as well as pretty much all aspects of life.

Wifey-Pooh would love to simplify. Certainly, I do not want life to become more complicated. I would not want to move to, say, Los Angeles, but I do not feel the need to move to Podunk, NH either. Wifey-Pooh, however, would like to move further out of the city. As a matter of fact, we have friends moving to Florida with the express intention of getting away from the rat race.

Wifey-Pooh does not handle environmental stress as well as I do. So I have a feeling that how strongly a person feels about limiting technology is related to how well they deal with the stress of urban life. Also, the stronger the need for social interaction, the greater the desire to connect with a smaller community.

The advance of technology for travel has greatly increased our reach, but at the same time may limit our effectiveness at relating to our community. Take your average North American urban church, for example... How many people actually live in the neighborhood of the church they attend? We Joneses moved less than six months ago, and we're still trying to stay involved at our church. Previously, we lived less than two miles from church; now we live 50 miles away. It has been detrimental to our involvement in the church community. Most of the church members live up to 15 minutes away by car, so the bonds of community is tenuous, at best.

A common problem with most churches I've attended is a lack of internal cohesion. Would this be true if churches were comprised of only neighbors, people you bump into on a regular basis? Yes, churches would have to be smaller, and what would be wrong with that? A small, intimate community which shared ideas and a common interest in the well being of its members is far superior to a larger community with low involvement. Which, of course, causes me to question continuing our long-distance involvement at our church. I've been contemplating the necessity to realign ourselves with a local community.

Well, my lovely wife is coming to pick me up, so I'd better go.

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