If you are reading this, I am fairly certain that I know at least two things about you. First, you are likely sitting at a computer terminal that has Internet access. Second, you are neither of my parents nor my brother.
I believe you are at a computer because this site is a web publisher and even when people want to share my articles, I suspect that they are e-mailed or posted on Facebook instead of printed and mailed to Cousin Ernie in Hoboken. I believe you are neither of my parents nor my brother because, despite my protests, neither my parents’ home nor my brother’s house have computers.
I’ve tried over the years to induce my parents to buy a computer. In the early 80’s, when my friends were using early generation Macintosh computers to do their research papers and reports for school, I was still using a typewriter. My parents thought that was fine. I tried to explain all of the benefits of getting a computer, but they never listened.
In the 1990’s I sent both my parents and my brother computers in the hope that they would find the Internet too interesting to ignore. My parents never plugged in their computer and my brother used his for less than a week. Even now, more than a year after I started writing, and half a year after my moment in the sun on ABC News Now, my parents and brother have never read my writings or seen my video clip. For that matter, they have never sent an e-mail, are completely unfamiliar with Facebook, have never shopped at Amazon, have never done any of the multitude of things that the rest of us do on a regular basis with our computers.
Even more importantly, my parents and my brother are content with their lives completely devoid of computers. My mother still sends me a letter about once each month. Even though she can call me on the phone, she still believes that a written letter allows greater self-expression and is more enjoyable to read. My parents still do all of their shopping in brick and mortar stores and, if the stores near their home do not have an item available, they patiently order it. If they need to prepare a formal response to business correspondence, they still have a typewriter. Their camera is not digital and its film is developed at Walgreens. They do not play solitaire for countless hours at their desks. In short, they live almost exactly as I remember my house in 1979. My brother’s home is the same and could have been used as the set for That ’70’s Show.
Last week, I wrote an article about my desire to do away with my television. I was pleasantly surprised by most of the responses. It seems that many of my readers are not TV addicts either. After I saw everyone’s responses, I realized that for many of us, our computers have replaced our televisions. I then tried to extend my thoughts about the TV to thoughts of justifying getting rid of my computer to save money. I just could not and cannot wrap my mind around that idea. I mean… We need our computers, right?
But for my parents completely contented lives without a computer, I would never even have considered it possible to live a computer-free life. It’s not like my parents or my brother live in the woods of Northern Canada. Dad is a retired dentist. Mom is a full time busy-body housewife. My brother is only 41 years old. If they can do it, why can’t I?
Of course, a big part of the reason that I could never give up my computer is that at the moment, I am doing a lot of writing for web-based publications. I need my computer to do that. Also, I enjoy the convenience and money saving opportunities that I can find by shopping at on-line retailers. Moreover, I am connected to almost everyone I know by web-based communications. Indeed, I have communicated all of the publishers for whom I write solely by e-mail. For that matter, when I schedule interviews for the “day jobs” that I am pursuing, I take care of all of the logistics via e-mail.
Computers are expensive machines to buy. The Internet is an expensive monthly cost. I don’t deny that. Nevertheless, I can’t see any of us doing without them. Accordingly, I suspect that our computers would be among the last costs that we would ever give up.
As for my parents, I hope that someday I can persuade them to get a computer. Failing that, I will work on my brother. I am not optimistic, however, because they each live within four miles of a library with Internet access and none of them is willing to go on-line. They are true modern primitives.
What do you think? Could you ever give up your computer and Internet connection? How do you control your costs of going on-line and maintaining your computer? Why do you feel that a personal computer and Internet access is essential for your household? Do you even think that?