The simple freedom of staying out of the tech loop

During a brief but significant brain freeze some months back, I agreed to organize a school reunion because I was fingered as a guy with some information acumen.

What I discovered instead was a new but rare species in modern society — an introverted collection of the tech adverse, a legion of social network Amish.

How I envy them, free from the entanglement of digital circuitry and global satellite technology, blissfully unaware of a life full of missed connections.

As hard as it is to believe, there are people who have managed to technically not exist, to account for no public records, to avoid detection on the World Wide Web. They don’t know you’re searching for them and they don’t care, such is the joy of the purposely unknown.

I could have tried harder — no doubt — but I figured that a check with the state Department of Corrections would only provide me with results I don’t want to know and a guest I probably never want to see. But still, I think they’re lucky.

Members of the computer-free land of the lost don’t have to worry about backing up their hard drives. They won’t ever have to replace the 26 cellphones their children lost or destroyed because they don’t use or believe in them. They don’t have to spend time on Craigslist looking for a concert ticket, because more than likely, they’re the scalpers.

They don’t have to be concerned about carpal tunnel syndrome because typing and texting are words found in a dictionary they don’t use. They think a Mac is something you get at the Golden Arches. Of course they know what a notebook is — they use one for the grocery list.

They luxuriate in being unbound. Think they’re upset about Netflix’s corporate imploding over its new plan to separate users to make more money? Who needs streaming video when you’ve got a trusty VHS machine under the rabbit ears?

So why are they secretly laughing at their compulsively chatting friends who like to set up weekend Skype sessions? Simply because there is freedom (and a lot of money-savings) found in trend-avoidance, a form of being that can only exist if you, for the most part, do not.

Think about it. Ten years ago, Blockbuster was so big you couldn’t go a mile without seeing one. Independent neighborhood video stores complained about the cruel big-box giants, yet today there’s only corporate handwringing, bankruptcy and silence. Two of my closest Blockbuster outlets are now Goodwill stores — how’s that for irony?

In tech terms, I remain a cautious but knowing plodder. My children still make fun of my vast CD collection (which form the basis of their iPods), telling me that I should transfer everything to my computer as most hip members of our world already have. That was until, a few years back, my son’s MacBook died, taking with it about 18,000 songs. He now checks out my new CDs with interest.

When my BlackBerry apparently took its own life some weeks ago, I lost the personal numbers of hundreds of friends and colleagues and even a few dozen politicians I still admire. Did I have it backed up to my computer, my Facebook friends inquired? Did I know you could?

My Facebook friends sighed. Still, they post pictures of their cats wearing glasses. Who should be scolding here?

I’ve never tweeted, and I never will, since I believe in the beauty and power of words and have made a long career out of using them in as many creative ways as I can fashion. So why place limits on that, even when it puts you on the caveman side of popular culture?

I went out of my way to avoid the celebrity side of Los Angeles even when I had to cover it. The only thing I miss is the weather.

So maybe it’s not too bad to be among the sometimes (or completely) Out-Loops. Maybe they’ve found some sort of inner peace by not being found.

It’s not that they’re worried about sensory overload, computer hackers or getting cancer from cellphones. It’s hard to be concerned with information when you haven’t received it.

They’re just keeping it all simple for themselves.

Bay Area NewsLocalNews ColumnistsSan Franciscotechnology

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