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ATPM 10.12
December 2004


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The Candy Apple

by Ellyn Ritterskamp,

There Are Several I’s in “Individuality”

I got to thinking about which Web sites I visit regularly, and about what functions I perform on the computer that used to be done by phone or (gasp!) snail mail. I realized I save a lot of time by being able to do these tasks myself, rather than having to talk someone else through them. I have the reassurance of knowing I have done exactly what I wanted, and that I got it done on my schedule.

I am not so sure this is A Good Thing. I want to admire the way we are so efficient. I want to marvel at the speed of stock trades, and retrieving information about them. I do marvel at all that. I remember how much trouble it was to get someone else to handle that stuff for me. I love that I am in complete control. But a little corner of me wonders if I wouldn’t be better off getting advice from somebody on that stuff. But then I swing back to the position of believing we are better off teaching ourselves how to handle our own money, and not relying on a broker to make suggestions.

We are better off being able to make complex travel arrangements for ourselves, rather than paying someone else to do it. I just booked a hotel room for a quick trip, and the entire booking process took under a minute. I swear. The travel site already has my personal information. I told it what I wanted and when, and it came back with a perfect hotel and a map. Another element I love about this is that I booked that room at 2:15 AM. Before we had all these travel sites, I would have had to call during the daytime, and get put on hold with all the other callers. Self-sufficiency definitely has its good side.

I will return to the possible bad side of self-sufficiency, though, because it is the way I think. I almost can’t help but examine a thing from multiple angles, and this angle makes me wonder if we wouldn’t be better off with a few more exchanges with other people. Maybe I have made it too easy to handle travel, stock trades, and work insurance choices online. I even have a Web site to log my exercise times. I have not properly “balanced” my checkbook in months, preferring to log the transactions as they appear on the online statement, and just trust the bank. I rarely go shopping in person anymore; why fight the crowds when I can get exactly what I want online?

Maybe we give up something important about social interaction by living this way. On the other hand, I suppose we could say that less time spent on the phone with brokers and travel agents and salespeople means there’s more time to spend with our families and friends.

Yeah. I like this explanation better. It is the same reasoning that said the Industrial Revolution meant we would not have to spend every waking hour raising enough food to subsist. Now we could mechanize some of the work, and leave a little more time for leisure, and study. Sometime in the 1970s, I think, we entered the service industry in the United States. This means there are even fewer labor hours spent producing things, and more hours spent helping each other get normal stuff accomplished. In theory, we have more time than we used to, to spend with each other. Or with our cats. Or whatever. We just have to recognize those gifts, and take advantage of them.


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Reader Comments (1)

CCF · December 2, 2004 - 13:47 EST #1
Good points.

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