Monday, November 26, 2012

E-books Are Not Evil and Neither Am I

Did you ever notice how people tend to connect a statement of opinion with an insult?

In accordance with many recommendations by pediatrics experts (something about impeded brain development), my wife and I didn't let our kids watch TV for their first two years on Earth. A lot of people we knew openly said that they would get work done this way: set the kids up with a video and go to work into the kitchen, or, wherever.

Recently, my wife brought up that when she would mention our choice to other parents, they would get defensive; they'd act as if she was implying that they were bad parents. I guess, in that case, we kind of were implying that -- or, at least, implying that they were making a bad choice by letting their kids watch TV. In fact, I suppose it was more than an implication. So, I sort of understand their reaction, even though I think they should have simply accepted the fact that it was a mere difference of opinion and moved on. But when it comes to their kids, people are touchy, indeed.

But what I do not understand, at all, is why, when heart-close things like kids are not involved, people take offense to other simple statements of opinion.

Recently, I posted a piece on my belief that it is good to dig one's heels in at some point -- to hold on to some of the past and to refuse to take up with every, single new thing. Along these lines, I mentioned that I have no interest in owning an e-reader. I am sticking with books. I like books. I have no desire to read them on a screen.

I cannot tell you how many people, in Facebook threads, on email and in person reacted to that preference with a defense of either why they like e-readers or with an argument as to why I should like e-readers. Some were good-natured; others were almost caustic in their tone -- there was almost a sense of disgust with me for being such a pig-headed Luddite. (Forget the fact that I keep a blog, work with complicated software in school every day and that I recorded, engineered and produced a whole album in my own home studio, which I assembled -- I'm clearly a technophobe if I don't have an e-reader. Oh, and I am also a curmudgeon who plays in a rock band and loves roller coasters.)

Why this reaction? Can people not stand that someone else dislikes that which they like? -- or are they carrying guilt for having abandoned the traditional book? Or, are we just natural lovers of conformity?

My dislike of e-books (or, more accurately, my love of physical books) is not going to hurt the world, or even the e-book industry. I also never said that there is anything wrong with e-readers. I just don't like them, the same way I don't like certain types of cheese. It is also important to point out that I can see why someone else would like them. Let's face it: they're cool. So are motorcycles, compound bows and lasers. But that doesn't mean I have enough interest in them to get involved in new hobbies (or, that I have any obligation to do so).

I promise never to sneer at an e-book owner. (My own wife has one, and I still love her -- just not as much as before!  KIDDING!! I'm KIDDING. Sheesh.) This will be an easy promise to keep, because I make no judgement of their choices.

Overall, I just wish a mere preference didn't get read by those who don't share it as an insult. When this happens, it's a sign of a world with a dangerous love of conformity.


  1. Reminds me of a conversation I recently had with a friend who's usually pretty supportive:

    Me: "I'm finding Facebook really unpleasant. Why should I log into this thing every day just to be bombarded by the snark and anger of people I barely know?"
    Him: "You go ahead and stay in that ivory tower then."

    Apparently, it's elitism to want to control my own access to people bellowing on the Internet.

    But I've seen this in all areas of life. When I was in college, people who went on to do nothing with their lives told me I should drink more or try drugs. More recently, people in dire financial straits have insisted that I move from the small apartment I can afford to a larger home I can't. Acquaintances who hate their jobs tell me it's wrong to be relatively content in my job of nearly 14 years.

    What sort of blatant insecurity makes people so oppose the contentedness of others while claiming to want to help them?

  2. Sadly, Jeff, I think it is a simple question of conformity. People who dare to walk their own path are irritating to other people -- even those who, as you say, have good intentions. I just think it is amusing/frustrating how such slight variances as not wanting to be in Facebook of not wanting an e-reader can cause such outrage. You are almost better off painting yourself blue and running naked through a church -- at least, then, you are completely off the wall and, so, amusing. If you are "normal" you are expected to be normal all of the way...or perish.(Okay, that might have been a little overdramatic.)