Posted by: patenttranslator | September 4, 2012

The Freelance Lifestyle Is Unhealthy and Often Leads to Internet-Based Addictions

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.



  1. This is so timely! I had to tell my husband to stop telling me about his new computer games—because I get sucked into them and 5 hours fly before I know what hit me. 🙂 I’ve never been a huge computer person before, so it is dangerous new territory for me. Thank goodness for living near a library!


  2. “I had to tell my husband to stop telling me about his new computer games—because I get sucked into them and 5 hours fly before I know what hit me.”

    This is probably not a good enough reason to divorce him …. but still, it’s pushing it.:)


  3. Oh, how I love this post!
    Some people have trouble understanding why I quit facebook 2 years ago, or why I don’t hang around to chat/Skype after I have finished working.
    Truth is, as soon as I am finished with a long day in front of my computer, the least thing I want to do is stare at a screen (computer or TV).
    There’s so much more to life! Lying on the beach with a book, taking a walk with one’s other half, going to concerts, enjoying a drink with friends… you name it 🙂


    • Thank you so much.

      You sound like you’re not big on electronic hallucinations.

      But once you get hooked it is so hard to become unhooked again.


  4. I don’t want to comment on internet addiction in general as that is a chapter in itself. Concerning the unhealthy freelance lifestyle, it depends on what you as the freelance translator make of it. Many of your raised concerns are perfectly true, but they apply to any job (office kitchens usually have a nasty junkfood section, not to mention calorie-loaded birthday morning tea gatherings which are often a last resort to escape the tedious daily grind). You have to find a way of organising your work day regardless of whether you have projects or not. What helps me is getting up at 8 am, get dressed for business – never work in pajamas, never!!!- and set aside 6 to 8 hours in which I really do work, allocating three 20-minute slots for reading and replying to business-related emails. Even in times of famine, I have an 8 hour work day – I brush up my website, maintain my client database, coldcall potential new clients, do an online course or webinar, voluntary translations for charities, polish my language skills, write books…and yes, I do meet friends regularly in person and on fresh air! Which I would not be able to do in an office job.
    It can be tough to organise your days when you have an irregular lifestyle, but if you are not able to do this, then freelancing might not be for you.
    P.S.: I don’t regard reading or writing blogs a waste of time 🙂


    • Well, reading my posts is hopefully not a complete waste of time.


      • No, Steve, reading your blog posts is never a waste of time, even when they are usually 10 or more times of the length of a twitt.

        Do you remember the blog of a colleague I recommended? A recent post at hers reflects your zombie attack post.

        I admit that I’m addicted in reading blog posts of some translation colleagues. Though I don’t know some of them personally and haven’t ever had a dialogue with some of them, I found myself not isolated (lonely) at all when I read them. I wouldn’t regard this kind of addiction a waste of time for I enjoy learning from those colleagues.


      • Hi Wenjer:

        Les pilles intermediaires called me “Patent Translator, un traducteur-blogueur bien connu”!

        Je suis bien connu à Paris. I didn’t know that. One of these days I will go on a world tour and have a beer with readers of my blog.

        I could make a stop in Paris, Munich, Russia, Taiwan, New Zealand, South Africa and many other places.


      • Hi Steve,

        Yes, you are well known to the translator community everywhere. When you visit Taiwan, we will surely be receiving you with a cocktail party, not just a beer gathering. You have more than one reader in Taiwan. There is a bunch of us.


  5. With two teenage kids in the house, I can only say “hear, hear” to your comments about young people’s unhealthy addiction to internet-enabled communication devices.


  6. Not so long ago I too had two teenage kids in the house.

    Now that they are (almost) grown up, I see them a few times a year.

    I am not sure which is worse.


  7. But at least you can talk to them on your mobile, or via Skype, Facetime, or whatever…


  8. Yes, some of those Internet-based inventions are good for something.


  9. […] 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 …  […]


  10. “This particular restaurant, which is run by an Asian family, is very popular with black people because they like fish.”

    …whoa, way to generalize about an entire race of human beings. I know several black people who *gasp* aren’t that crazy about fish (or fried chicken, or watermelon, or whatever the “black” flavor of the day is).

    Agreed with the rest of what you said though.


  11. It was the Asian lady who was waiting in the same restaurant for her order who told me that black people like good fish because she noticed that the restaurant, which has fresh fish, was often full of black customers.

    I don’t think she was generalizing. I think she was being perceptive.

    I’ve seen in Japan that Japanese people like fish, and in Virginia that black people like fish too.

    I don’t see why I should not be able to say that without having fried chicken and watermelon thrown at me.


  12. @ Wenjer

    Cocktail party sounds good.

    But if we met in person, we would probably start arguing right away about the meaning of a Japanese character or a Russian proverb or something.

    When a bunch of weird translators meet for the first time, things can get ugly pretty quickly!:-)


    • Don’t worry. We all know that translators are the weirdest people you can find on Earth or on Mars.

      You may insist upon that the word “(love-)sick” should be translated in Marina Tsvetaeva’s poem “Мне нравится, что Вы больны не мной.” But if you want to have the last word, you may say that I am also right about translating it in a more reserved tone.

      And, you know, Chinese understand Kanji differently. 金玉滿堂 means something totally different from what a Japanese would interpret. So, no problem having a bunch of weird translator meeting for the first time. “What we learn today may not last a life long,” as one of my former classmate says, who is also a translator in Germany.

      Так же как все!


  13. “Je suis bien connu à Paris. I didn’t know that.”

    À Paris, I don’t know, but don’t be too modest, your blog sure is well-known among translators, à Paris and elsewhere 🙂

    Have a nice day!


  14. (Silly me: actually, I now blog from Luxembourg, not from Paris.)


  15. I went to your blog and I thought it said Paris somewhere.

    I don’t quite get the name of your blog.

    Could you explain it?


  16. […] 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 …  […]


  17. […] 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 …  […]


  18. […] unas semanas, Steve Vitek analizaba en su blog los contras de trabajar conectado a internet y el principal problema al que estamos expuestos: que […]


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