Tools for Thought

Thinking beyond productivity

10 Technologies I Resist

by Andre · 11 Comments

Some technologies we resist out of principle. Some we resist out of fear. Sometimes they’re just not that relevant, or we’re too lazy to engage with the perceived learning curve.

Every now and then I feel the urge to reflect on the ones I resist as a reality check. I resisted cell phones for years, until I got one from my mother as a birthday present (it had a whopping 20 minutes-per-month service plan, which was more than I expected to use). I resisted using a RSS reader, expecting to suffer from information overload, addiction and distraction — pretty accurate so far.

Maybe I’m truly missing some technology out there that would actually benefit my life if I were more open-minded. Maybe I’m digging my heels in too strongly. If so, feel free to chime in and let me know. Here are some of the “solutions” that I resist, either partially or categorically.

1. Social networking. I’m on a few of the networks, but I can’t seem to motivate myself to use them more. They strike me as solutions looking for problems. Delicious and Twitter seem the most useful to me, since they involve the least overhead. You don’t have to create an elaborate profile; you can just use them. But the value of Facebook is lost on me. It just seems like yet another inbox to keep track of. What is the killer app here that I’m missing? Why not just email?

2. Television. I grew up with TV in the household and gradually found myself watching it less and less, preferring to spend my time reading (way, way too much time). After I moved out, neither of my first two roommates had a television, and I couldn’t believe how much more relaxed life was without one. Now I get agitated whenever I’m even around a television. I don’t even have one to watch DVDs, though I keep telling myself I “should” get one for that purpose sooner or later.

3. Game consoles. All electronics games, really, including those on PCs and portables. I played enough video games (not to mention non-electronic RPGs, like Dungeons and Dragons) in the Eighties for a lifetime. I have to maintain a “one day at a time” policy to avoid getting addicted again. I had a minor relapse with Tomb Raider 10 years ago, and have learned my lesson since: if you don’t want to slip, don’t go where it’s slippery.

4. Virtual outsourcing. It’s on my Someday/Maybe list to try the likes of Guru or AskSunday. At the moment I don’t have any tasks that seem onerous enough to dump on a developing country. Maybe I’ll brainstorm a list of tasks and outsource them just to be fashionable and say I’ve done it.

5. Office 2.0. I’ve tried. Lord knows I’ve tried. While I’ve managed to switch to writing directly in WordPress for blogging, I can’t bring myself to trust the cloud for my article writing and spreadsheets. I once lost four hours of writing in GDocs due to a router hiccup, and I have a long memory. More importantly, the state of the art on both Google and Zoho office suites is still severely lacking in features that are critical to me, like Outline View. Naturally, they’ll improve over time, and probably become more robust than their offline counterparts. But I don’t live in the future.

6. Online finance trackers. I’m way too paranoid to even consider putting my banking information on sites like Mint and Wesabe. Besides, this is another cloud service whose added value totally eludes me. I don’t even used specialized personal finance software. Excel does the job just fine for my purposes.

7. Vitamin enriched water. Bottled water is silly enough as it is. Now we’ve turned water into a supplement whose dubious health advantages (most American aren’t deficient in vitamins, except E) are negated by the crystalline fructose sweetening. It’s better to simply drink less sugar water than to drink “better” sugar water. The same applies to any “diet” junk food.

8. The iPhone. Granted, not a very radical or original rebellion, but until the iPhone has a native list manager with desktop synchronization, I’m happy to let this cultural phenomenon pass me by. The internet does look might nice on it, though.

9. Mobile email. I have a perfectly capable email-enabled phone, complete with a front-facing qwerty keyboard and IMAP support. I found that whenever I’d check email on the phone, at least some of them would involve replies that required resources I had at work, like physical files or other personnel; or they would require verbose answers that would be much more comfortable touch typing; or they had links to sites that were better viewed on a real monitor. I don’t like fragmenting my email processing, so I stopped doing email on the phone. I never had to deal with “Blackberry addiction,” because it was too unpleasant to be habit forming in the first place.

10. IM. Aside from chatting with a few international friends, where it makes logistical sense, I despise instant messaging. Every time I would see the notification go off, my blood pressure would go up. Yes, you can turn off notifications or make yourself appear offline, but if I used those features as often as I wanted to, it would be essentially the same as not using IM — which is pretty much the way things stand now. I recognize that this one’s a little irrational, and I’m going to force myself to start using IM again eventually.

What technologies to you resist?

(Photo credit: GeneC55)

Technorati Tags:

Tags: Questioning My Assumptions · Technology


  • Vered - MomGrindNo Gravatar // Sep 17, 2008 at 4:26 pm

    Ha. I knew I liked you for a reason. I resist most of these, including TV, game consoles, online finance trackers, vitamin enriched water, iphone, mobile email and IM.

    Social media is a networking tool.

    Are you SURE we’re not simply late adopters?

    Vered – MomGrind’s last blog post: Wordless Wednesday: Mona Lisa, Enhanced

  • MarkNo Gravatar // Sep 17, 2008 at 7:53 pm

    Bullseye bonsai!!! High full-payload detonation with substantial collateral damage to large swaths of the super-wired-socially-entangled blogsphere.

    Hearty AMEN on all 10:

    1. The social network craze is one giant self-affirmation quest in tandem with accessibility run amuck.

    2. TV is an expensive brain anesthetic. Granted, there is some good content, but we now have the very-berry minimum package (that our provider doesn’t even advertise) and cut our cable bill by $70 a month. We have no regrets, especially given the number of shows and specials that can be seen for free online the next day.

    3. Game consoles. Kicking and screaming, last year we allowed our kids to get a GameCube (at a bargain price new in the package). They can have ONE hour per day of “screen time” of any kind. That keeps video games at the correct dosage.

    4. Virtual outsourcing–another trendy budget buster for the tiny-table cafe crowd.

    5. Office 2.0. Complete techo-prattle. Vapor-parlance that boils down to doing things together online. Underwhelming. And to think they webcast conferences on this stuff!

    6. Finances can be tracked a zillion different ways on my PC; I never work with or need my whole financial picture anywhere but at home and would NEVER trust it to some newbie cyber-fad website.

    7. Vitamin enriched water and fashion-meds are why Americans have the most expensive urine on the planet. It’s further proof that, except for some regional potholes, our economy is hummin’ along just fine.

    8. I-Phone–never tempted me for a nano-second. Form factor very cool, but Too expensive. Too contract-bound. Too proprietary.

    9. Who is so important (not to mention STUPID) that s/he wouldn’t jump on ANY pretext/opportunity to shed the e-mail monkey for a few minutes or–heaven forbid–an afternoon away from a computer? E-mail on my person? No gracias.

    10. IM–seriously, what productive soul has time for such feculence? Who is so obtuse as to make themselves THAT accessible?

    Has anyone mentioned that nearly all of the above are productivity and resource vortexes? Power-vacs for time, energy, money, and focus.

    Might just be the best contrarian post I’ve read all year.


  • JonNo Gravatar // Sep 17, 2008 at 9:17 pm

    I resisted cell phones until 2003. It caused me no pain, although it did for some friends. We didn’t grow up with tv, and that was a blessing.

    I have to differ somewhat on social networking apps. I just started using Facebook a few months ago, and I’m now in contact with dozens of good people I knew in college. I would never have found them otherwise, and it is great to see what’s going on in their life. The second benefit is that I don’t have to mess with spam. Every person who is a Facebook “friend” is a friend in real life.

    On the other hand, there is no app on Facebook worth a second look. The games are designed as hamster-wheel level progressions as with the myriad of MMORPGs. Also, it IS another inbox to check. In the long run, I may end up agreeing that its time-wasting is not worth it.

    Ironically, Office 2.0 (esp. google) has if anything, put the nail in the coffin in my using office apps. For some years I’ve just been using text editors like notepad++ due to their separation of formatting from the writing process. It is very rare for me to need to micro-manage my margins or fonts. I used Outlook for a while, but the google calendar keeps my wife and me in sync, and we keep it minimal (thanks to your suggestions!) For where I’m at, I don’t need the advanced office features.

    I think robots might be the next major technology I resist. As the streets fill up with mechanical grocery-errand runners, people will spend a good part of the evening oiling, polishing, and debugging them. I’ll be the cranky old man who *gasp* does things for himself.

  • SteveNo Gravatar // Sep 17, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    Same here – it’s actually weird how closely I agree with most of these:

    1. Almost exactly the same – I did have a few weeks of being Facebook-addicted, but it soon passed. I still have occasions where my interest heightens, but mostly I resist nearly all social sites.

    2. This is the main exception. I have to confess to still being a TV junkie. The advent of PVR means I now watch more stuff I actually enjoy, rather than whatever’s on, but I can’t resist TV completely. The shame…

    3. Apart from an occasional dalliance in CoD4 (multi-player online gaming is something I resisted for ages), I fully agree here.

    4. Didn’t even know this existed!!

    5. With open-source and/or portable Office Suites, and ever-increasing memory sticks, I just don’t see the point in this. The only slight exception is Google Notebook, which I use to capture (sections of) web pages on-the-fly, but this isn’t really Office software.

    6. Fully agree about the online versions, although I would like to be able to trust them, particularly if a robust mobile-enhanced version was thrown into the mix. I do use Microsoft Money rather than Excel though.

    7. Again, I hadn’t even heard of this. The closest I get to this fad is passing water (!!) through a filter in a jug before drinking it.

    8. I resisted 1st-gen iPhone through principle. I became more tempted with the 2nd-gen iPhone (3G – how confusing could that get?!), but had just renewed my contract with TMobile and you can only get the iPhone on O2 in the UK. I also currently prefer a physical QWERTY keyboard – I love my new Nokia E71!! Depending on timing and feature-sets, I may well succumb to the 3rd-gen iPhone. Time will tell…

    9. Another example of you spookily voicing my thoughts. I have a brand-new mobile-enabled QWERTY phone (see 8), but rarely – if ever – use the email feature. I occasionally check email on it to see what’s arrived, but then wait until I’m at a PC to actually read it! I sometimes will use the mobile email to send myself a reminder, but that’s it.

    10. Never touch IM. I have Skype, but it sits unused. Maybe one day.

    11. The only one I thought I would add is blogging itself (is that a technology?). I would like to blog, but – despite the appearance this comment gives – can’t think of enough to say on a consistent basis.

    Sorry to ramble on, but your post just struck a chord with me. Love the blog BTW!!

  • Charlie GilkeyNo Gravatar // Sep 18, 2008 at 6:08 am

    Spot on with most of these, Andre. I get off the boat, though, with the iPhone.

    Having one has seriously changed a lot of the way I do things, and for the better. I haven’t written about it on PF yet because I’m in the midst of a backlog. The list manager is a bit of a pain, but I do use the Notes feature for that and it works pretty well – but I almost never get into extensive writing on the iPhone for obvious reasons.

    Quitting video games is the best thing I ever did for myself. So much wasted time, and gaming psychology has gotten sophisticated enough that they know they get people like you and me hooked (XBOX Achievements, I’m looking at you!). I have refused to even try WoW because I know that it’ll be a time crypt from which I’ll emerge a few months later, broker, fatter, and dumber.

    And, like you, I’ve reignited my love of reading and writing. And I play a lot more music on my guitar. It’s much better to be doing things that you can be proud of at the end of a year, but you enjoy doing them while you’re doing them, too.

    Charlie Gilkey’s last blog post: How to Stifle A Good Idea

  • AudreyNo Gravatar // Sep 18, 2008 at 10:51 am

    I agree with most of these and also eschew
    1) all digital to do list/task management/productivity enhancer variations
    2) PDAs, though I may have one thrust upon me for work at some point in the near future, in which case #1 might be off this list as well, since the main problem is that I can’t take my digital lists everywhere.
    3) Word Processors until I’m on the 3rd draft. I do almost all of my writing long-hand, and still print drafts to long-hand edit them.
    4) Microwave meals. They kind of creep me out.

    That said, I’m a huge fan of Facebook. It’s different from email because you don’t have to actively pursue contact with your “friends.” It’s a great way of keeping up with acquaintances, who you would otherwise lose track of–like the digital equivalent of running into a high-school pal at the grocery store. Some people might say that if you’re not willing to keep up an email relationship, then it’s not a relationship worth keeping up in anyway, but I disagree. I use it to keep track of people from high school, college, and grad school, people from old jobs, and that I’ve met traveling. I don’t have things to say to many of these people on even a monthly basis, but if they post something relevant–for example if a travel buddy is coming to my hometown, or if an old friend from high school is going to the same concert as me–then I can respond and make a meaningful contact with them. But I don’t have to expend the energy to keep up with them on a regular basis on the off-chance that something like that will come up.

  • steenbok68No Gravatar // Sep 18, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    Honestly I do not see the point in “resisting” new technologies. CHANGE is all around you and unless you accept it you will be left behind. Not that I am already on top of all the technologies you mention, but if I came across them I would not resist. Some of them can only may life easier and/or more enjoyable.

  • AndreNo Gravatar // Sep 18, 2008 at 4:36 pm

    @Vered: I’m sure I’m just a late adopter. With any solution, my filter is always evaluating whether or not the actual benefits exceed the perceived overhead of daily use. In the case of Twitter, I find it surprisingly useful. Not the case with Facebook so far, but it might be a case of me just not “getting” it.

    @Mark: Thanks. Needless to say, I’m in total agreement with anyone who’s in total agreement with me.

    @Jon: One of the things I do like about Facebook is finding old acquaintances I wouldn’t have dreamed of contacting again. If Facebook replaced email entirely, the spam-free environment would be a real benefit. But I have to get through my email inbox anyway, so Facebook feels like yet another inbox to me.

    @Steve: Some days I wish I could resist blogging. It’s getting more addictive than games.

    @Charlie: The guitar is a great recreational tool. You can have hours of fun, develop a real skill, and you don’t have to buy new “content” to avoid getting bored with it. Best of all, no ads.

    @Audrey: I wish I could still write my drafts longhand. I still do it for my freelance writing, but blogging requires more constant contact with a computer, not just for the writing, but administrative tasks, moderation, image editing, etc. I’ve tried it a couple of times, and while I could focus better when I write away from the computer, there were other inefficiencies that were more decisive.

    @steenbok68: I don’t consider technology to be synonymous with change; it just expands the array of solutions from which we can choose. More importantly, I don’t consider change to be synonymous with progress, or positive change. I think it’s better to look at the costs and the benefits, and adopt going the options whose change is clearly net positive.

  • Two Mindsets for Approaching New Technology // Sep 18, 2008 at 8:56 pm

    [...] Follow this blog: RSS | Email ← 10 Technologies I Resist [...]

  • Charlie GilkeyNo Gravatar // Sep 19, 2008 at 8:50 am

    Re: blogging being more addictive to games.

    Tell me about it. The addictiveness lies in the sprawl of ideas that can come from almost nowhere. I don’t know how many times I’ve had to run home in order to start writing or jump out of the shower, still wet, to capture what I was thinking.

    That we also get to “bill” it as productive time makes the addiction far worse than video games. I can talk myself out of playing video games because I know it’s merely a time sink. But blogging, and writing, and designing…those are advancing my creative career!

    Oh, the lies and misreason we can tell ourselves! My wife has been wonderfully understanding about all of this, and she also calls bullshit as needed. But, yes, I am a blogger and am addicted…

    Charlie Gilkey’s last blog post: How Creatives Make Money

  • Outsourcing Life: Sid Savara on Virtual Assistants | Tools for Thought // Feb 26, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    [...] year, virtual outsourcing made it on my list of 10 Technologies I Resist. It seemed like a solution looking for a problem. There wasn’t much that I could imaging [...]