Thursday, February 23, 2012

Choosing Technology

The internet has allowed many families to live simply and home-based.  We, for one, use the internet for nearly 75% or more of our sales.  The family here - is making and selling and living together on their simple homestead.  There are many others.

I am just in awe of how fast technology is advancing.  There are so many areas that are just beyond my comprehension at the moment - I just don't have the time to try and keep up on it all.  Mike and I talk often about how much do we need to make our living.  Do we need to do facebook, twitter and such?   I have started on pinterest, but really that is my creative outlet.  I don't think of it as contributing in any way to our income.  While I have a facebook account I have yet to do anything with it and cannot figure out how it might contribute to our business.

Blogging is the one thing I started years ago to share our family's dreams and accomplishments as a way to keep a journal and to just let others know that there is another option.

Am I going to become completely out-of-it if I don't keep up?  Can we continue to make a living with our little etsy shop and blog?

Wendell Berry, last I read, still typed his writing on a manual typewriter.  Not sure if he still does, but if so, he is still making a living without using computers.

We still have dial-up internet.  Our latest conversations have been about whether or not we should get a satellite connection.  Broadband is not available at our rural location yet.  We are asking ourselves if it will increase our income.  Do we need to earn more?  What would we do differently?  Will it save a substantial amount of time or just lead to wasting more time?  Will it instead be more of a distraction?  Right now I go to our local library 2 times a week to keep up on our marketing (checking stats, feedback in our shop and searching for new ideas, checking out other toy and wedding blogs/shops, etc.), keeping up with blog friends, researching homeschooling topics, and making purchases.  I am able to list items in our shop, make blog posts and answer emails just fine with our dial-up at home.  With a higher speed would we all be distracted with all there is on youtube (educational right?), would it be tempting to constantly look things up instead of going to a book (but maybe that is the future and I am just fighting/avoiding the inevitable), would I be overwhelmed with all the options or does this just become part of life and we would all become used to it?  Do I want us to?

So many magazines have gone digital and we cannot download anything with dial-up and I don't even like reading them on my little laptop.  Thank goodness for new publications such as Taproot and for Aubrey's handwritten newsletter.  (I have passed on the names of those of you that had a couple of issues left from Plain and Joyful Living  - please contact me if that is not satisfactory to you.)

While visiting family over the weekend and talking with my aunt I learned what an Android is and now I am starting to understand I-pod, I-pad, etc...  She said something that has also got me thinking.  She said she really just bought the Android to keep up with technology. She already has a laptop but she doesn't want to be 75 (she is now 57) and have a hard time learning anything new in relation to technology.  We don't have any of those little devices, although our sixteen year old son, did buy himself an I-pod recently.  However, he can't use the online option at home as we don't have wireless here.
We don't even have a cell phone yet.

For now, we are at the point of asking ourselves the following questions when considering a new technology -
1.  Is it necessary for us to make our living?
2.  Will it save us a considerable amount of time?
3.  Will it end up being wasteful?  Will it just be junked in a year or two, for example, and end up having to be thrown away.
4.  Is it safe?  I still wonder about all of the waves.  We are blessed to be in a little knoll where even most cell phones don't come in well.  I pray that all of these waves are harmless, but I am not convinced.
5.  Will it bring our family closer together or separate us more?  For example, each person on their own screens.

What do you think?
Has technology made positive or negative contributions to your life or both?


  1. Dear Tonya, this is such a wonderful post.
    Like you, I am not online much- I do have my blog, and have been considering an etsy shop for a while now.
    I feel that I have made some wonderful connections and found inspiration and information through the little bit that I do online. I have also considered doing a pinterest account, as a creative outlet like you.
    I also feel that by avoiding facebook and the many other things online that I have been able to spend more time with my family. I do not feel at all like technology has influenced me negatively, as I really haven't that much to do with it! Nor do I really want to.
    As for the positive benefits- my husband is a private music teacher. He has been able to supplement our income as a web developer- so he of course knows all there is to know about what's what. Anyhow, here is a way that has allowed him to be home more, so thus has influenced our lives in a positive way.
    Also, with my high risk pregnancy, technology saved both me and my baby Sun.
    That said, I strongly believe it can be overdone and is overdone, and as a result humans have lost much because of it.

    Love, Mel

  2. Tonya I have to say both for sure. It's amazing to me how far we've come and yet how useless some of it all seems. We have high speed internet, we have to my husband is in IT and sometimes works from home. I think it's fantastic that it enables families like yours to live successfully from your own business. My husband is also a musician and he finds the internet useful for promoting his band and the like. He would argue that facebook helps your company because it gets you out there in another place for more people to find...I see that, but is is needed? I don't have the answer.
    Our kids got Kindle Fire for Christmas from grandparents. I will say it's been great for homeschooling. There are so many books out there in a digital version that are free that we have been using. Again, not necessary, but fantastic. Of course my sweet daughter begs for a facebook account (she won't get one). I guess it comes from the older girls on the gymnastics team, the are so "cool" and she wants to be like them.
    Our family gets sucked into youtube of course, some times it annoys me a great deal. But then my darling boy goes and grabs a book or heads outside to play and I feel great.
    I don't have an answer, there is such a fine line between these two worlds and I hope we can find the perfect place to be in it all. Good luck to you, I know your family will choose wisely.
    hugs, Angie

  3. Technology is a blessing to me and my family, however for those children (teens in particular), who do not know how to self-regulate yet, it's a trial. We embrace technology full on and don't know as much as we'd like but it enables us to enjoy life while continuing to follow our interests. I listen to music on my dock while I quilt with the best sewing machine out there. I can upload improvements to my sewing machine if I need it to be better. I am so grateful. I encourage you to follow your interests, if they happen to take a technical turn, have fun!

  4. Dear Tonya...This is a wonderfully thoughtful and thought-provoking post. I, too, have similar sentiments. I do find I am on the computer more than I am comfortable with |~ almost always after the children are in bed or occupied elsewhere (like now). I struggle with technology and how crazy our world seems to be and is headed towards. I look at the dark side of it all, a bit too often. But as you know, my daughter has a chronic health condition now and I never thought I would be so reliant on technology. Her life depends on it and will continue to be dependant on technology until a cure for T1D is found. So as you see, I would be a hypocrite to be down on it all. I think the key is, moderation moderation moderation. Getting high-speed is ok, as long as it is used carefully. And using it carefully can be a challenge with so many temptations available. I don't know the answers, but I do appreciate teh discussion. Thanks for sharing your innermost thoughts on it all.
    xo Jules

  5. Great post! We do have wireless internet, an I-pod because we can't get radio reception, and a flip cell phone. In town the other day I was using my cell phone at the farm supply store to ask my husband a question, when I was finished, the man standing next to me said that he hadn't seen a flip phone in ages (as he texted on a fancy one). I had to laugh because this is my first 'real' cell phone, before I had a pre paid Trac Phone. I thought I was right uptown! Ha- guess not. I think technology is good in moderation, but it is too easy to become dependent on or addicted to it.

    I really don't get Twitter or Facebook either even though I have accounts to both.

  6. I can't really see how high speed internet would increase your business unless you are willing to spend many hours on the computer doing it....(searching out other selling outlets). I fought each advancement into technology that we have made, not because I felt they were bad, but because everything just costs more the more technology you choose. Do we really need to spend $200/month on our cell phones? (we have 5.....our college kids have them and I do have to say, I can text them at any minute of the day and usually get a response within the next half hour).
    I would say, just take it slow.....don't worry about getting too far behind in technology....if/when the day comes and you need to learn something new....I am sure you are up to it. :)
    If you increase your annual business expense because of your technology choices, you will have to make considerable more sales to just equal where you are at now....but you have already considered that.
    If YOU are going to be the one who has to put in the extra you want to do it? Although your plate looks like it is already full...maybe you still have room for dessert. :) I am sure we will hear the outcome one of these days. :) Have a great weekend!

  7. Technology has both a good and evil side. I am a computer technician in a middle school and the number of kids who have (and seem not able to live without)cell phones is astounding to me. Sixth graders with My Space and Facebook accounts... wow! I feel that with technology, as with most everything else, moderation is the key. And if you have children, moderation and supervision. I have a FB account mostly because my family is spread wide and far and it is an easy, fun way to keep in touch. I just started a Pinterest account, I have two blogs-one is public and one is private because we don't post photos of our grandchildren online for all to see, but would like family members to watch them grow and an email account. I could get lost for hours in the cyber-world so I limit myself to an hour a day and two hours on Saturdays. I think you have to go with your gut about what is right for you and your family, but as an educator I can't tell you how thrilled I am that you are weighing the pros and cons and giving thoughtful consideration to your choice and not jumping in feet first without knowing how deep the water is!

  8. Tonya, I just wanted to add: aren't we so blessed to live in this time, where we have the option to use technology when we need or want to, but also have the option to do without. Because I really do think your business can and will thrive as it is, with what you are doing.

  9. I'm going to chime in here on the satellite internet thing. It is nice... when it works. We also live in the land of no cell reception & where 28k dial-up or sat are the only choices. Having a faster connection could be more of a time-suck for someone unless they are very disciplined {I'm not} BUT if you are thinking of Hughesnet/Wild Blue for your sat connection look into it VERY carefully. You probably won't have to worry about lg downloads & youtube b/c you can't do these things with the bandwidth restrictions that sat connections place on subscribers - we have Hughesnet. It's not unlimited - altho' they do give you unrestricted time in the middle of the night, which sometimes turns day people into night people. It varies but right now about 1/4th of the time we can't even get a webpage to load properly. And it's $$. For instance: We have a limit of 500mb per day & if we use that up then the connection becomes unusable for 24 hours to "recover". {We do get a token once a mo. that will recover us to 250mb of usage - 1 time usage per mo. thing} 500mb isn't going to give you enough for much youtube time. Nor to have multiple computers using that bandwidth {we have 2 & have to be careful w/ usage but we are online a lot}. It is pretty fast when it works but not as fast as dsl. This costs us $60./mo.
    I wish we had cell service where I am b/c in town I tether my cell to the compy & it works better than the sat here at home & doesn't cost any more than my reg. cell/data plan.
    Anyway, that's just an example. Look very closely into it & really think about it. Our avail. dial up is only 28K so it's basically unusable.

  10. I believe it is important to stay abreast with technology. This does not mean it has to dominate ones life. An Android phone can be the answer to a better internet connection. You can post to your blog, update your etsy store and keep up on messages, all without adding a different internet service.
    We were able to get the new Samsung ($800 phone) for free, through our provider.

    Facebook can be a huge asset to your business, without being to invasive. Set up an account that has your stores name, and just post business posts from your blog, and also product info from your etsy store as they come available. Chances are most of your customers have FB accounts, and they will work for free for you, just by adding your account info to their pages.

  11. I resisted getting a cell phone for years, but then, one year ago, I needed one for work (they supplied it). I use it as a cell phone only. It is possible to put all kinds of things on it, but I use it strictly as a phone (and for text messaging, which I do believe saves me plenty of time). We do have wireless internet here, and I find that I hardly use it at all. My husband is on it when he wants to, because that's what he chooses to do with his free time. My children now have to use the internet for school to do a lot of their homework (can you believe that they have to submit a lot of their homework on-line???) They are allowed 1/2 hour of "free computer time" once or twice a week, if all of their work is caught up and they have finished their chores/helped out. Basically, what I am saying, is that it may save you the time of going in to the library to use the system there, but I don't think that just because you have it at home, you would "waste time" on it. I don't think it would shift your priorities at all.

  12. It's a delicate balance. I resist a lot of technology--I only have a pay-as-you-go phone to use while traveling alone with the boys. We do have a computer/internet, obviously and we laughed at ourselves when we bought a printer with a copier (we're "homesteaders-right!?) :) But I like to think of some of these things as modern homesteading. The computer allows us to keep track of billing with my husband's business, do some marketing online, and more. The printer/copier that we thought was such a funny addition to our farm years ago has been great for our businesses and homeschooling, too. We try and balance this technology by avoiding adding newer cellphones and faster internet, etc (dsl is available here, though). I don't know how you do all your online business stuff with dial-up, but I totally understand why you want to weigh all of these choices.

  13. We think so similarly sometimes Tonya. I can't tell you how many times I've thought & thought about all that you've brought up here. Many times in the past, before we were relying on selling things online, I very nearly ceased my blog and all other online stuff that wasn't absolutely necessary. I don't want my kids to have zillions of memories of the back of my head, I don't want to spend more time on online friendships than IRL ones (though sometimes those 2 get kind of blurred together), and I don't want to set an example to my children that the computer is way super cool awesome and better than playing, creating, working, etc., AND I didn't want to feel like I was being all ego crazy posting about myself in my blog. I am not really a "me me me!" kind of person, if that makes sense. I don't want my blog to end of being an ego thing instead of a place I try to inspire and keep a journal for my family.

    We don't do any gadgets at all. I don't know what an Ipad or any of those are, and I'm not even curious! :p Like you, I created a Facebook acct long ago but don't use it. I find enormous inspiration and education from blogs! I don't read blogs every day, and sometimes not every week even, but I've learned so much from so many women out there.

    Since we are also way out in the boonies, we have only dial-up or HughesNet (satellite) available to us. We use HughesNet. We have the fastest speed they offer because my husband works from home on it, but it is still too slow to play any You Tubes and it doesn't download pictures in others' blogs very well... So perhaps you don't have to worry about getting sucked into things like You Tubes and movies! :) Also, we have only one computer and my husband works on it all day, so there's not very much left over time for getting really sucked into things. We made the decision to go down to one computer when we moved here, just for that reason.

    We're too far out to have a land telephone line so we have to have cell phones. We have barely any reception though! And we do believe that all the waves we're surrounded by are wrecking havoc on humanity's health, for sure. We have only one radio, so as to avoid radio waves, and don't use laptops, the microwave, or any other "wavy gadgets". But here I sit in front of our wavy computer!

    We have only just begun sales online (only our etsy and my newsletter) but rely on word of mouth and my blog for it. So far anyway. So I'm not familiar with how you'd utilize FB for your business, but seeing how popular FB seems to be perhaps you could look into it.

    My hope of hopes is that my kids don't have interest in gadgets or FB as they get older. Due to what you mentioned- them being drawn away to their screens instead of family and real life stuff. My oldest at 20, does have a cell phone.

    I've typed enough I think! :P This is such an important topic- I'm glad you brought it up.

  14. Geez that's a long comment. My fingers got away from me! lol

  15. Technology is a time waster and a form of dependency in life. I'm going to go on a bit of a tangeant, because I've been searching the scriptures lately. Much of it points to how people seem blind to God's commands. I speak specifically of Revelations here.

    The beast which comes out of the abyss to rule over mankind - does that sound like fossil fuels from Dinosaurs to you? When you read Revelations with that context in mind, you get to see how people go to their destructions without even realising it.

    We're duped into believing God hasn't provided enough from the land - ie: we NEED technology and everything that stems from fossil fuels. But the more we chase the world and "keep up to date" with tech, the blinder we become to the destruction we're creating.

    I'm writing this from a home computer and I have broadband. We also watch digital television and even splurged on a game console for our daughter last Christmas. Every time we purchase something new however, the drain of time and resources is phenomenal. The benefit is never long lived before they bring out something new - programs and parts get made for the new models while they phase out the old.

    Revelations points to this phenomenon too, by saying those with the mark of the beast (think fossil fuels) won't be able to buy or trade without the mark of the beast. Sound like the current trend towards technological development to you? How many machines are used in financial transactions nowadays - how many more will they invent in future?

    I'm not being a religious zelot, I'm just sharing some of the scriptures I've been led to lately and how even in my life, I'm coming to realise that the more we rely on man's ways of trading in survival, the more we turn our backs on God's. If the economy is going to spiral further into descent, why do we keep believing the beast will save us if we just buy more into it?

    What I also found curious about reading Revelations was the part where they say the name of the beast is also a number - how do we measure dinosaur fossils, but in millions of years?

    Heavy topic I'm discussing I know, but I cannot believe in God and look at my life with a bias towards my flesh and the world. Instead, I'm constantly reminded how much I need to find my faith by following the footsteps God laid out.

    I'm certainly not anti-technology, but I do believe like the beast in the abyss, it has a limit to how far it can influence mankind. We have to learn to be co-creators with God, and that starts at home. I admire what your family has managed to achieve on faith and hard work. It puts Facebook and broadband to shame.

    The less dependent we become on technology, the more time becomes our own and the more we can serve others. If you asked God, what direction do you believe he would point you in? I've found when I ask God about wants, rather than needs, he's strangely silent. So I go and consult the world instead. Because God doesn't exist in my wants, that's exclusively my domain where "I" get to play God.

    But I don't want to be a demi God in my own mini empire of desires. I already have more than I need, but it's my faith that seems to be in short supply nowadays. ;)

    So I would suggest you don't listen to the world and what it tells you means success, outdated or profitable for your family. Because if scriptures are correct, the world will always tell you to follow the beast. I'm only coming to realise of late, how technology has stolen my hands and my mind away from me. I actually want a future where I listen to God, and do the things which add real value to creation.

    As Jesus said, the worker is worthy of his meat, so if you work on God's terms then you and your family won't go without. Or at least, that is what I believe.

  16. WEll, you already got a lot of comments. I can only say that yes, technology is very time consuming and every time we add something most of the time we also spend more time on it than we should. Thus said, I think broadband would be useful for you: other things can really wait...I do facebook as a mean to keep up with people especially in Italy. i started it right before moving to the USA. I like Pinterest but I try not to use it that much because again you find so much stuff and certainly more than what I can conceivably realize in my lifetime....Good luck in your choices. May they be always inspired and shared....

  17. Tonya,

    I hope you get to read this since I didn't have anytime yesterday to comment....I did find time today however.

    I have been enjoying your blog for many years now and I always check your Etsy to see if there is something creative there.

    We have our computer through our telephone so it is not dial up...we did have that for many years but for a while now we pay for it through our phone it is so much faster and I think it saves us alot of time. We do use the computer alot for school which I am so grateful for!

    As for wasting time well Tonya you know there are many time wasters and for a long time I felt my knitting and crocheting was a time waster...and then I began puting things on Etsy so I could justify my time for I still struggle with knitting and it not begin a time waster...I could be doing other things that need to be and such...

    I have found that Twitter has been the best thing for me and my blog...I have seen a big jump in views because so many people see that I have posted a new post...I would recommend looking into that if you haven't already.

    I wish I could find more time so that we could add many things to our Etsy shop but life gets in the way and I guess I don't make our shop enough of a priority? I would love to know how many hours you and your husband put into your business. I hope to someday make our Etsy shop like a full time job...I guess that is a big dream...but you have done it so I know that it is possible!

    Sorry that this is so long...I hope I added something you haven't thought of??

    Much love,


  18. It's definitely a combination. I think a lot of it has to do with your attitude towards it. Is it a tool that helps or is it a time waster, an idol of sorts, etc. Using it in moderation is probably the best way to go. I think about your driving several times to use the library connection - gas, time used, inconvenience vs having it right at your fingertips...but then again, none of us want to be a 'slave' to technology either. That probably doesn't help your dilemma at all. Sorry.

  19. I have a love/hate relationship with technology. I like it because it makes me feel part of the world at large. On the other hand, the internet can be a huge time waster and sometimes I'm angry at myself for being on the computer for too long. My husband uses his cell phone much more than I do because he merely loves to "chat!" I find that cell phones are a money pit, another monthly payment that pushes you slowly into a corner. I don't feel the need to check my email constantly, like some people do with their phones, and I find that most texting is small talk, utterly unnecessary. I'm not old, I'm not a curmudgeon, and I'm a teacher....but I think technology is mostly people trying to convince you that you need it so that they can make money.

  20. I have been reading some disturbing things about Facebook and their use of the information they have on you. You should try to check it out if you can. They can track pretty much everything you do through your computer now and info that should be private (like phone #, address, etc) can easily be found. I have Facebook to keep in touch with family also but am seriously considering deleting my account. I think it could be used to help your business but I'm wondering at what cost. We have broadband internet and it is a time saver in research but also a time waster in it's easily distracting and you can end up spending much more time on it than you plan. Unless you have much more willpower than I do! God bless. I'll be praying for your family for God's guidance as you make these decisions.

  21. Such a thought provoking post, thank you! We use technology mostly for the positive, but we keep the computer in a cold, unappealing room to help us spend less time on it :)

  22. Like many have said, this isn't an easy decision. My husband and I are younger, and live within a city, and have managed to stay up-to-date with what the latest technology is. We, however, choose not to utilize all of it. And I feel like that is the key: knowing what is available, but finding a balance. For example, we have never had cable or satellite television. Even now, our antenna broke a while ago, so we don't even get local channels for our flatscreen (which was a gift to my husband a few years back). We don't intend to replace the antenna anytime soon. Our friends think we are nuts to have a "modern" television that we can't watch TV on (we watch occasional movies). Or, we choose to have cell phones (cheapest plan without texting) and so we forgo the landline to reduce cost. We have a nice computer (I do occasional photography with editing) but have the cheapest internet (which doesn't even always work) Yet our friends come over with their smart phones and can find things 3xs faster on their phones... We are considered "weird" by our peers for not going along with the culture, but we just don't need to. I've never felt the need to text (oh texting! That's a whole other subject!), or to pay more for internet when our cheap stuff is doing just fine. We also don't keep our technology in the "normal" places - both of our screens are upstairs not in the main parts of our home, so we don't look at them all day either. For us, the biggest benefit is cost - we save hundreds of dollars every month by NOT having all of that technology. ~Kristin

  23. We have been grappling with the same issues here.

  24. Hi, I don't have facebook, but I know of people who sell items on facebook, so maybe thats an avenue for you also....

  25. I greatly appreciate much new technology and also recognize risks that come along with the good. My family stays more connected thanks to cells/internet and we save time (ordering library books, banking, research, etc.). Also, my husband is a teacher and ref/coach and can be home much more now than prior to having internet since much of his work/planning/organizing can be done from here. I would not want to go back in time. I do have concerns about the health risks involved and I am online a lot. Much of it for 'good' reasons. In the past I had to moderate my reading time, some people have issues with talking on the phone or tv - so I just see technology as one more place where we need to make purposeful choices about how to use it.