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Living life offline

Ever wonder if we're breeding a nation of cyber-addicts who may ultimately sprout a single scanning eyeball set above 10 twitching fingers? Consider this: Nearly three in 10 American households aren't hooked up to the Internet. And a recent study shows those folks plan to keep it that way.

What? No viewing YouTube videos, reading MySpace blogs or even Googling? Who are these millions of people who eschew the Internet?

Marjorie Edens of Jacksonville is one. The retired historian for the Southern Oregon Historical Society is not computer phobic. In fact, she was quite the whiz on Photoshop and other computer programs she utilized during her 24 years working for SOHS as their field services coordinator and oral historian. Edens, 66, also understands the convenience of e-mails "especially on an international level," she says.

But Edens won't have a computer in her home. And that's flat.

"I don't have one at my house and I don't intend to," she states. "I find it to be a huge interference. You can't have a quiet reflective life with e-mail."

And such a life is something that matters to this small-town native, Edens says.

"Life is a series of choices," she says.

Edens prefers to spend her days taking slow walks around her historic town, visiting with friends and gardening. At night, Edens enjoys "slowly and quietly fixing myself a good dinner." After dinner, she passes time with good books and her favorite radio shows.

"I grew up in the radio generation," she says. "If I had to be reduced to two things, it would be reading and the radio."

Edens also voiced concerns about addiction and internet use.

"I think it's very addicting. And we can be hard-wired to be addicted. Unfortunately, I see a lot of herd activity," says Edens, adding she thinks computers are also hard on vision.

But what about the rest of us who have to deal with those who have chosen the path less cyber? E-mail might be less personal than a phone call or even a handwritten note. But communication can occur when convenient for both the sender and the recipient, a plus in hectic lives.

Edens, who also doesn't have an answering phone at her residence, has her e-mail hand-delivered from members of the various community organizations in which volunteers, she says.

"They call it D-mail," she says with a laugh.

Other people would like to join the Internet generation. But it just doesn't compute, they say.

Annabelle Apodaca of Medford recently decided against purchasing her third computer — especially since she'd barely touched her first two machines.

Apodaca's introduction to cyberland came via her husband's genealogy research in the 1970s.

"But that was his interest," Apodaca says. "I sort of left it alone."

Apodaca has tried to hone her computer skills with the help of private tutors.

"I can read e-mail," she says. "But I don't send it. It makes me kind of nervous to have e-mails stacking up."

Apodaca says she is particularly impressed with Internet search engines like Google and the Wikipedia online encyclopedia. But when questions arise when no one is around, Apodaca gets frustrated with her computer.

"I just shut it down until someone comes over," she says.

After her husband's death in June, 2002, the young-at-heart widow bought her second computer in 2003, hoping to find a new love at an online dating site. But that didn't pan out, she says.

Instead, Apodaca fell for a neighbor 15 years her junior.

"I fell madly in love with him," she says. "Unfortunately, he did not fall madly in love with me."

Apodaca, 66, turned her unrequited passion into a book of poetry she had published. Did she use her computer to pen her prose? No way, she pounded it out on her beloved 1930's portable typewriter, Apodoca says.

"I just love my typewriter," says Apodaca. "I have the confidence I want on my typewriter."

Still, Apodaca doesn't rule out a future with a computer. Maybe the third computer will be the one that charms her, she says.

"I keep trying to like it," Apodaca says. " It just doesn't work for me."

Family pressures often provide the chink in the armor of people living a determinedly computer-free existence. When retired Rogue River teacher Jim Fety, 57, sent his three kids to college, he bought each of them a laptop computer, he says.

"They have to have it as a tool for their education," he says. "But for many, many years we did not have a computer. And no television. Ever."

Fety's kids support his position against television, he says. But his offspring have nudged him over to the cyber-side. Fety and his wife communicate with their campus kids via e-mail and chats, he says. They also order plane tickets online for trips home.

"We were pushed ahead by our children," Fety said. "It's kind of like admitting to the inevitable."

However, Fety doesn't intend to get hooked into spending much time on the computer, he says.

"I stay on-task. I don't surf the net. I don't wander around. I always have a reason for being online," Fety says.

Does the task-oriented Fety read Internet news? No. Fety's not impressed with the "little scraps of information" he finds on the internet, he says.

"I find reading the real newspaper, holding it in my hand, is way more informative." Fety says. "I'd much rather have a paper in hand."

A Gold Hill grandmother recently also got online after succumbing to family pressure — and bribery in the form of a free computer.

Deborah Davis, 54, says her brother-in-law gifted her with his old dinosaur about a month ago. Formerly computer-free, and still quite leery about the whole online experience, Davis views the object that sits in the corner of her living room with mixed emotions.

"It's just there because ... (sigh) ... I don't know why it's there," Davis says. "I always felt we had too much technology in our lives."

Davis insists the computer really doesn't interest her. But family members and friends told her she needed one.

"No I don't," she insists. "I still don't. And I won't get another one when this one dies."

Davis occasionally uses her "intimidating" computer to send a few e-mails, she says. But only one of the family members so insistent she join the Internet party has written her back, she laments.

"Only my niece wrote me back," Davis says.

But what about other activities? How about online shopping? Searching for treasures on eBay holds no allure, Davis says. She's not buying — or sending her personal information into the cyber ether, she says.

"I don't want to buy anything online," she says.

Even Googling creeps her out, she says. A short stint looking at "movie star stuff" resulted in an overwhelming amount of information that made Davis uncomfortable, she says.

"You almost feel like you're prying," Davis says.

How about video games? Davis warms a bit. She plays a little video poker, she says.

"But I'm refusing to get sucked in," Davis says. "I have friends who won't do their housework because they're always on the computer."

So how does Davis pass the time that many of us spend tapping away on keyboards?

"I'm kind of old-fashioned," Davis says. "I like my grand daughters. I play with them. They're more fun than anything."

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 776-4497 or e-mail sspecht@mailtribune.com.

Annabelle Apodaca of Medford rarely uses her computer. When she recently compiled a book of her poetry, she did it the tried and true way ... on her typewriter. - Bob Pennell illustration