By Maria Recio • MCCLATCHY NEWSPAPERS
WASHINGTON— Ralph Nader looks like the original geek. • Intense, driven, focused on detail, slightly disheveled, the consumer advocate and former presidential candidate has a large electronic footprint on the Internet and social media. • But it turns out that Nader, who just turned 80, is so last century — maybe so last two centuries. • His latest book, Unstoppable, will soon be out, and like his previous 11, it was typed on a bulky manual typewriter. He doesn’t have a cellphone — “Why should I have a cellphone? I have people I don’t want to get phone calls from” — and his Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and email accounts are written by aides, under strict guidelines. “I’ve never seen them,” he said of his virtual accounts.
Ralph Nader shuns the digital world as addictive
“I don’t want to lose control of my time.”
Nader is part of a small group of Americans who are digitally resistant. They avoid electronic communication — from computers to smartphones — as much as possible, even as the world goes digital.
But there’s another emerging group that’s also turning to old technology: tech users distrustful of the breadth of electronic surveillance revealed by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
Former President Jimmy Carter is turning out to be a digital teetotaler, too, but for different reasons. He created a stir last month on NBC’s Meet the Press when he said, “I have felt that my own communications were probably monitored, and when I want to communicate with a foreign leader privately, I type or write the letter myself, put it in the post office and mail it.”
Although at 89, Carter is older than Nader, he’s been a fan of digital media — until now. What is being called “the Snowden effect” has people securing their communications.
“After Snowden, how comfortable can anyone be putting their personal or professional life online, or even on their own computer?” said Warren Sack, a software designer and media theorist who is a professor in the film and digital-media department at the University of California-Santa Cruz.
In a poll last month marking the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web, the Pew Research Center found that 81 percent of U.S. adults use laptop and desktop computers at home, work, school or someplace else. The poll, taken in January, also found that 90 percent of U.S. adults have cellphones, of which 58 percent are smartphones. In the 18-29 age group, 98 percent have cellphones, 83 percent of which are smartphones.
Jeff Hendrie, an 18-year-old high-school senior in metropolitan Detroit, is something of an anomaly. He lugs a typewriter to school every day and does just about everything the old-fashioned way. Before he typed, he wrote his papers in longhand. He uses a flip phone and considers the U.S. mail “the most-secure system.” He has an email account, out of necessity, but he isn’t on social media, and teachers who usually send students their assignments by text will give them to him in person instead.
“Pretty much everyone, including myself and my parents, say I was born in the wrong era,” Hendrie said.
Lynne Joyrich is a professor of modern culture and media at Brown University, but she has a fondness for mid-20th-century devices such as rotary phones.
She has a smartphone to keep in touch with students but often forgets she has it, “for the pleasure of being able to be left alone.” And that ability to control who you have contact with matters more and more.
- “In today’s world, there is more — and at the same time, less — comfort with surveillance and people being aware of what you’re doing,” she said.
I couldn’t agree more with most of these people — my granddaughters both urged me to allow setting up accounts is several places, I think Facebook and Photo Bucket and probably one or two more, but I have never used them and wouldn’t even know what to do first. There isn’t even one thing about all that which even appeals to me in any way. While I have openly shared much about myself on “smokinchoices”, still, I feel quite protective about my privacy and right to it. And that is not to say — I’m secretive, I’m kinda an open book — what you see is what you get and always have been that way.
Social Media has frightening ramifications to my mind. . . . so glad to see, I’m not alone. But, hey, that’s just me, I guess. . . is this anti-social? . . . . . Jan)