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Where is the simple life?

April 22nd, 2005 · No Comments

[Editor’s note: I wrote this piece on simple life April 11 but it has taken me a while to polish and post it – is this particularly ironic or simply a confirming sign of the complications of life…?!]

Yesterday [April 10] I read Jeff Sandquist’s link to Om Malik’s piece on Internet Anxiety Disorder.

Then I read the Seattle Times article titled Dialing It Down.

These two pieces created a provocative juxtaposition in my mind.

Even though I can afford to spend only a portion of my day online and on the computer, and my Internet Anxiety Disorder is not as severe as others, I feel overwhelmed. Each night I have dozens of emails to read and evaluate as well as dozens of blogposts, nevermind the fact that I could or should respond personally to these pieces in my inbox and aggregator.

Many have noticed the fact that I often send messages or publish blogposts in the early morning hours, around 2 or 3 am. Although I am trying to rest well at night, I discover that I can’t catch up on my email or blog needs completely unless I sacrifice sleep at least once or twice a week. Already in the past month I’ve unsubscribed from both yahoogroups and feeds in an attempt to simplify. I’m not sure what else I can do to combat Internet Anxiety Disorder and still stay online.

The Seattle Times article on The Simple Life described those who moved away from the city and its lifestyle to find a better way to live. Some live on Orcas Island, others near Methow Valley. It’s a tempting idea. Ted and I here on Bainbridge Island do enjoy the slower pace and rural quality of life. It is relaxing to drive past farms and forest, to be separated from city and strip malls.

However the article has an anti-technology slant. One of the people featured, Robin Woodward, is described with these words: She is appalled by how people ignore the panorama and stare at screens instead. The article makes many mentions of physical labor and farming but none of using technology for simplicity. Dialing it down implies one is not dialing up.

Two quotes I liked:

Kristi Laguzza-Boosman said they changed their simple lifestyle: “Simple living just got too complicated for me. I needed someplace more convenient where little things (lights, heaters, toilets) actually worked consistently as opposed to when they had a mind to.”

Robin Woodward said “No matter where you go,” she says, “you bring yourself with yourself”

There is no magic in the geography, to paraphrase another sentence in the article. Wherever we take ourselves, we are there too. I believe that we don’t have to move to a remote location to find simplicity within.

These two pieces, one on the craziness of being connected constantly and the other one on dialing down, may seem to say that the answer is found offline. However, I wonder why it has to be either/or.

Why can’t we use technology to create a simpler life? Must our connectedness become an anxiety disorder? How can we use technology as tools to make our life more the way we want it to be?

Perhaps we don’t need to buy a farm to escape to simplicity, perhaps the simpler life could be found in the midst of a city with a cell phone and computer. Or is that picture a contradiction?

Related link: Brian Lamb’s post on Sleep is for slackers.

Tags: journal

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