September 21, 2021

You Have The Ability, Should You Use It?

Modern technology has given us many amazing things. Just consider advances in indoor lighting:

  1. Candles – look great, melty wax everywhere, can run out, nice colors and smells
  2. Electric lights – Have a switch to go on and off, as long as you have electricity to the house you’re good. Now, what does that switch in the hall do again?
  3. The Clapper – Hey look, if I get the volume just right, and the right pattern, that light or Christmas tree goes on and off. Hey! Stop barking, dog!
  4. Alexa – I feel like I’m on Star Trek– I can tell the lights to go off and they do. And somewhere a computer is listening– just how much? Is this Star Trek, or am I talking to Hal?

The question is, just because I can do something or use something, should I? It’s a bigger question than you think. I’ve been reading Man of the House and Durable Trades ((These are affiliate links. No additional cost to you, sends a bit my way if you click)) again, and one of the interesting things that these authors talk about is how, in the past, technology would be evaluated to see whether it was a net addition to the community before being adopted. If something would make a person lose their job, they may not have adopted it simply because people need work.

We see a similar principle at play when people choose to buy American or buy locally in order to support the local farmer or businesses instead of the importer. But did you ever do that level of evaluation of the technology you use? Simply because that device you own can do something, doesn’t mean that you should use it to do that thing, or to do that thing right now:

The Amish prize family time, neighborly connections, simplicity, and self-sufficiency. Technologies that will sustain these values are welcome, while technologies that will erode them are shunned.

By relying on their own, independent sources for electricity, rather than the grid, the Amish are able to maintain their self-reliance.

By using a community telephone, the Amish get the benefits that come from phone service (like being able to call a doctor in an emergency or do business with outsiders) while making its use inconvenient enough to avoid what they see as the downsides of personal phones — a decrease in face-to-face conversation and an increase in distraction. 

It’s for a similar reason that they avoid modern computers, as well as radios and televisions; they see these devices, and the way they provide personal entertainment, as something that would fragment families and the broader community.

So instead of thinking of the Amish as anti-technology, it would be more accurate to say that they’re incredibly intentional about how they use technology. When a new innovation comes along, an Amish community will scrutinize it, weighing its benefits and drawbacks, and its potential effect on their values and lifestyle. In thinking this through, sometimes they ban a certain technology outright; other times, they ban its unlimited use, but okay it with certain limitations. Twice a year, members of each Amish community meet together to review the Ordnung — the rules which govern their lifestyle — and discuss if any changes to the way they’re using technology should be made and/or to affirm their current usage practices. 

Use Technology like the Amish

So maybe figure out whether your device usage matches up with what your values are. Maybe it’s time to make a change.

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