Sunday, March 18, 2007
Day 9 - Results - Media
On February 22nd the Ann Arbor News published an article about the project. I did what most people would do - I told my closest friends and family about it and bought several copies. I hoped that the article would encourage others to evaluate their interactions with technology. That was it - as far as I knew, the news of the project would travel only as far as the reaches of the local Ann Arbor News.
What I did not know is that the Ann Arbor News belongs to a "news sharing" network...these days that news sharing takes place over the Internet. By the next morning, the Chicago Tribune, the Seattle Times, and the Wilmington Star had picked the up article. To date, about 11 major newspapers around the country (that I know of) have published the story. As a result, about ten radio stations have called asking for interviews, as well as one television station. There was even an inquiry from NBC New York (which hasn't gone anywhere). I have also received numerous letters from people, ranging from people who remember the pre-1950s days well and want to share their story to those who are doing research in similar areas.
How do I feel about all this? Initially, I felt ridiculous. I am not stupid. I know there are so many people out there living much more simply than I did for those 30 days. I heard this story about a guy who went to live in the woods for a year with only a mug and a frying pan...and he TRIED to get some publicity...but no one wanted to write up the story. And then, of course, there are monks and nuns from many different religions who interact with very little technology their entire lives. And let us not forget the Amish. So I really started thinking about why my project really seems to be something that the media is interested in. Here's my conclusion:
The publicity is a result of the project being so ORDINARY. I'm just a thirty-something woman from the midwest who has a husband, dog, and a modest house...I teach a couple days a week and play the piano...and I gave up a lot of technology for 30 days and discovered that I was happier by doing so. That's it. End of story. It's something that people can relate to. Most people are not going to live in the woods for a year or become a monk or nun or turn off their electricity forever. But if there is a way to live a little more simply in their current situation, then that idea is appealing.
I also think that the story caught on because it was an interesting project that did not have a religious or political agenda. I went out of my way to not affiliate myself with any religion or political party during the media interviews. If I had associated myself with a specific religion or political party, than people on the "other side" would have been excluded (by their own doing). It is just my direct experience that once you place a label upon yourself, you also take ownership of everything that comes along with that label...and you separate yourself from those who do not share your label...whether you intend to do so or not. I did this project because I feel that we, as HUMANS, are just tired of being so overwhelmed with technology. I didn't want anything to get in the way of that basic message.
I couple of people accused me of being "soft" with the technology issue...that had I really spewed out the facts and statistics about the harm that technology does to society, the media would not have had any interest...that the media had interest because it was a "cute, little" project. Absolutely - I completely agree with that accusation. However, I garentee that had I taken a much more academic, hardcore fact approach to the issue, people would not have been influenced to change or evaluate their technology habits. I would not have received letters from random people across the country saying that because of hearing about the project and how happy I was by living without some of the technology, they decided to give up their cell phone or television or email. What is the use of spewing facts if people aren't stimulated to reflect and change? And the idea of the project was not to say that all technology is harmful - it was simply to say: take a step back from it, evaluate what's helpful or harmful in YOUR life, then make changes accordingly. That's all.
So we'll see what happens from here. Just yesterday, one month after the publication of the Ann Arbor News article, I received two phone calls - one from a radio station in Memphis, TN; the other from a radio station in Wichita, KS...so the story is somehow still circulating. Yet another unintended part of the project...the media interest in the story could be an entire research project.
Day 10 - Results - Overall