In Defense of Luddites

(also posted on HuffPost)

I recently spent most of a day trying to create a book trailer for my website, and pulling out what few hairs I had left on my head. Despite the easy instructions on the “help” page, I found myself struggling. Just because I’ve mastered one technology doesn’t mean I can figure out the next one. They all take practice, so I tend to be good only at the ones I use the most. I’m a wiz at TiVo, but you wouldn’t want me to create an Excel spreadsheet for you.

I’m sure one of my millennial friends, coasting on intuition alone, could probably have rivaled Scorsese with the video and still had time to make popcorn to go with it. Unfortunately, that’s not me. What’s intuitive to me is the proper placement of a semicolon. That’s what comes from 50 years of reading books—on paper. That’ll teach me.

Reluctantly accepting my Ludditehood, I spent the afternoon fumbling through files, learning when to click and when to drag-and-drop merely by the process of elimination, and with the help of semi-incoherent youtube videos where 13-year-olds play professor.

As they say, getting old sucks, but it sure beats the alternative.

The other cliché that pops into mind is: youth is wasted on the young. My millennial friends are at the beginning of their adult lives, still smooth-skinned, healthy, and energetic, still excited about the possibilities that life has to offer. And I wouldn’t trade places with them for the world.

They think I’m joking when I say I would gladly turn back the clock to the 1980s—not so I could be as fresh-faced as they are, but so I could return to a pre-Internet world. In that world, I wouldn’t feel pressured to make my own videos, for one thing. Hell, I wouldn’t even need videos. There was no such thing as a book trailer in the 80s, and no place to post it.

(Yes, kids, there really was a time before social media. In those days we had media and we had social lives, and the twain never met.)

Every generation gets nostalgic in middle age, I suppose. Every generation thinks the new kids on the block have completely lost their minds. But I can’t help thinking it’s different this time. The changes wrought by technology in the past 20 years are exponential. The world I grew up in wasn’t all that different from the way it had been since 1945. Now, even 2005 seems like the distant past.

I love you, Amazon, but my heart skips a beat whenever I stumble upon that rarity of rarities, an actual bookstore. Browsing online, with some impersonal algorithm guessing and guiding me, isn’t quite the same as browsing in the real world, where all sorts of treasures unexpectedly turn up, where I can run my hands along the spines of books like Tom Sawyer running his along a white picket fence.

My only hope is that technology moves slowly enough that I won’t have to completely succumb. Thanks to my addiction to books, I’ve compiled a few towering piles already. If I keep it up, I may have enough on hand to sustain me once Kindle takes over the world. And if my DVD player holds out until they stop manufacturing them (fingers crossed against the gods of planned obsolescence) and begin forcing me to stream Cinemascope movies on my phone, my similar collection of films (yes, nearly all from the 20th century) should see me in good stead for the duration.

Somewhere along the way, the future has lessened its grip on me. Ambition isn’t really in the picture anymore, and it’s like a weight being lifted. I’m becoming more and more comfortable with the present, with what I have, and I seem to be forgetting the unhappy moments in favor of nostalgic reminiscence. How kind Mother Nature is to have designed that particular brain fart. While my millennial friends live in the future, as I once did, plotting and planning their lives, looking forward to 30 or 40 more years of work, I’m in the home stretch and glad of it.

So call me a Luddite. I’ll gladly embrace the term. The kids are welcome to their virtual reality. Just leave me with whatever’s left of the physical one.

One thought on “In Defense of Luddites

  1. Just wonderful. Although I like much of what technology can do, I don’t feel a great need for speakers in every room, little Alexias littering the room to do God-only-knows what. I like my Kindle because it is easier on these old eyes, but I have your books both on my Kindle and in real copies – just because.


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