Blake Snow

content advisor, recognized journalist, bodacious writer-for-hire

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A short history of technophobia: Luddites, Neo Luddites, and Reformed Luddites

Since writing Log Off: How to Stay Connected after Disconnecting, I’ve been interviewed many times on how to break away from addictive technology. Today I was interviewed by a talk radio show in Phoenix on the subject, more specifically on the history of Luddism and technophobia in general. Here’s how I explained the issue to them, starting with some basic definitions. 

Luddites (early 1800s)—radical British textile workers that vehemently viewed the industrial revolution as bad for society and sometimes resorted to violence and vandalism to make their fear-driven point. Totally technophobic.

Neo-Luddism (1990s)—smaller, contemporary Luddite movement that can be either radical (i.e. vandalism and violence to promote their cause) or just precautionary. Mostly technophobic.

Reformed Luddism (2010s)—a tongue-in-cheek term I coined in 2012 while writing my book to express the idea that digital apps, mobile technology, and connected gadgetry should be “treated guilty until proven useful to the individual.” Not necessarily technophobic, but technoskeptical and an advocate of “late adopting” things until proven useful to you specifically.

“To be a Reformed Luddite,” I wrote at the time, “all you have to do is recognize the many benefits of personal technology, but do so with an untrusting eye. Then only accept the ones that are relevant to your life and manageable.

“The Reformed Luddite rejects the notion of keeping up with the Joneses, the geeks, the hipsters, or work-a-holics. They’re slow to adopt and resist the latest software and hardware until proven useful. They’re acutely aware of the unanticipated consequences of new media. They are quick to abandon the technology that no longer works for them and seek out tools that actually save time as opposed to demanding more of it.

“In short, the Reformed Luddite prefers a low-caloric digital diet and is picky about what he or she consumes. They still appreciate the conveniences of the information age. But they favor analog, offline experiences more. They distinguish simulated life from authentic life, recognize the importance of both, but always aim for the latter.”

THE FINAL WORD: I believe the world would be a better place, that individuals would lead more fulfilling lives, and that our technology would become even smarter and more convenient if everyone became a Reformed Luddite. I can baptize you today if you like.