Many freelance workers and freelance translators in particular like to brag about their fabulous lifestyle. We don’t waste the planet’s resources, they say, because unlike employees (a lower class of people as far as freelancers are concerned), we commute to our office in pajamas and slippers while sipping our first delicious cup of coffee. If other people were like us, humans would stand a real chance to fight and stop global warming.
While this may be so, it is also true that the freelance lifestyle is full of many hidden dangers to the health and psyche of freelancers because it feeds a number of addictions to which, given enough time, most freelancers will eventually succumb.
In addition to the serious danger lurking in the kitchen, namely a refrigerator full of food that needs to be eaten before it is spoiled, freelancers are exposed also to many other types of unhealthy magnets and addictions which generally have two common denominators:
1. Freelancers’ isolation (loneliness).
2. Exposure to Internet 24/7 (usually 365 days a year).
These common denominators are mutually interconnected because when a person feels lonely, he or she will often first raid the refrigerator, and then spend some time on the Internet because it is so easy to find a thousand lame, unproductive ways to kill time on the Internet, including:
Reading a blog, writing a blog, playing poker or a dumb computer game, reading newspapers, watching clips on Youtube, watching movies or porn, listening to Internet radio stations, watching foreign news stations (because the propagandistic garbage that passes for news on American TV is these days completely unwatchable), and let’s not forget perhaps the most dangerous activity that one can engage in online: shopping.
Translators often develop an addiction to buying online things that they don’t need mostly to kill time: in particular computers, computer peripherals and electronic gadgets.
Because their lives are usually incredibly boring as sitting in front of a computer is not exactly a blast, especially if you are in the middle of the famous, seemingly interminable “famine period”, translators lamely titillate themselves with the promise of instant gratification in the form of a new electronic toy that they simply must have such as a laptop, tablet, netbook, Internet radio, or what have you.
Translators keep telling themselves that they need these gadgets to be more productive (ha!), and that in any case, the electronic toys are deductible from taxes. Which they are, until the translator is audited.
Of course, we are hardly the only people whose life is completely controlled by Internet and electronic toys. Kids would rather be dead, literally, than having to stop texting on their iPhones while driving at 60 miles per hour.
I was in a fish & chips restaurant recently waiting for my order. This particular restaurant, which is run by an Asian family, is very popular with black people because they like fish. There were about 8 customers waiting for their order in the restaurant, 4 were black middle-aged women, 1 was an elderly black gentlemen who was there with a black teenager, probably his grandson, 1 of them was an older Asian woman, and I was the only white guy there.
With the exception of the Asian lady, everybody was doing something on their phone, including myself. Most people were texting, I was reading a newspaper.
When I am shopping for groceries or looking for books in second hand shops, I often see a person walk into the shop, usually a woman, who is walking while looking at the phone and stopping occasionally to fire off a text to somebody.
Most people under 40 basically stopped talking to each other and they almost completely ignore the world surrounding them because they are too busy texting even while they walk. They probably no longer even see what’s around them. I saw a teenage girl texting with dexterity while running at a high speed on a treadmill next to me in a gym the other day. If you walk into the room of a teenager or a young person these days, they are often engaged in several Internet-based activities at the same time: playing an online game, illegally downloading music, talking to people on Reddit or Twitter, and checking out new Facebook photos. And sometime their TV is on too.
Young people can easily juggle several activities at the same time these days, but I am not sure that they can hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function, which is how Francis Scott Fitzgerald defined intelligence.
So it is not just freelance workers who have developed a number of Internet-based addictions. But since we are by definition on the Internet all the time, there is usually no place where we can hide from it, which aggravates an already dangerous situation.
There are only two things guaranteed to stop this freelance translator from wasting his time by doing something unproductive on the Internet: a brutal deadline, or a good book.
Thanks God for books. As I became addicted to books at a young age, the books are a welcome refuge for me that has not been touched yet by Internet as I still read books on paper.
But since not many young people read books these days, not even the smart ones, their lives are now completely dominated by a picture-based Internet culture in which you have to express yourself with no more than 140 characters.
Unless we all figure out how to overcome our Internet-based addictions and relearn how to pay attention to what is going on in the real world and how to talk to each other while expressing ourselves in complete sentences, I don’t see how we can possibly solve all of the problems that need to be solved while the blue planet Earth is still there in a more or less livable state.