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What the Amish know about technology that the rest of us don’t.

Yesterday, I read (re-read, actually) a Quartz article from May 2018. In it, Michael Coren interviews Jameson Wetmore, a social researcher at Arizona State University’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Their conversation explores the Amish and their relationship with technology.

I found the interview helpful because it crystalized some of the things I’ve been thinking about since last winter.

You see, I’m more and more convinced that the online world isn’t the place for me. It’s been my primary home for twenty years now, and during those two decades the internet has given me a lot. It’s given me wealth, friends, a career. But it also seems to have directly contributed to my poor mental health. It’s exacerbated my depression. It’s introduced anxiety to my world. It’s introduced me to addiction.

During the past twelve months, I’ve given a lot of thought to my relationship with technology — especially my relationship to the modern internet. As a result, I’ve begun distancing myself from social media. (I used to love posting on Facebook. Nowadays, I rarely do so.) I’ve written less at Get Rich Slowly. Sometimes, I even find it tough to gather links for Apex Money.

And you know what? By distancing myself from the online arena, my mental health problems have decreased. I’m happier. I’m more engaged with the world around me. I’m more like the person I used to be.

Anyhow, re-reading the Quartz article about how Amish people relate to technology really hit home yesterday. There’s so much to think about here that I’ve decided that today’s installment of Apex Money will feature only this interview.

From the piece:

It’s not that the Amish view technology as inherently evil. No rules prohibit them from using new inventions. But they carefully consider how each one will change their culture before embracing it. And the best clue as to what will happen comes from watching their neighbors.

This article made me realize that perhaps I (and perhaps you?) ought to approach technology the way that the Amish people do. Instead of embracing every new thing that comes along, perhaps I (and perhaps you?) ought to wait. Be patient. Watch what happens as others adopt the new tech and how it changes their lives.

By now, I think it’s pretty clear that social media is a cancer in our society. Therefor, I’m ready to (mostly) leave it behind. It doesn’t improve my life, and it doesn’t improve the lives of anybody that I know. But the internet itself? Well, I’m still undecided about that. For now, I’ll keep doing what I’ve been doing for the past few months: maintaining my old habits, but at a much-reduced level of involvement.

(Okay, I lied. Today, let’s have two links. The Quartz interview refers to a E.M. Forster story from 1909 called “The Machine Stops”. I just read it. It’s a shockingly prescient piece of writing. Forster predicts a future where people live isolated in underground rooms but connect with each other through a vast Machine. Then he explores the social ramifications of such a society. He gets much very, very correct.)