I deleted my twitter account this morning. I’ve been on Twitter long enough to remember when it was spelled twttr, and there was a SMS bridge to a specific number, 40404 if I remember correctly. For me, it’s always been a fun place to chat about Apple and technology. Twitter was a place to learn about new tech and be part of the community of developers, designers, and enthusiasts. Through Twitter I’ve found apps I use every day, books that I love, Authors to follow. We’ve chatted live through Apple keynotes, commiserated through hard times, and found common interests across the world. But… that’s just not what Twitter is anymore. At least not to me.
I quit Facebook a few years ago because I was using to to get into Political arguments. Today I quit Twitter for the same reason. The old Twitter I loved is still there, but it’s buried under the weight of supporting modern society. Politics makes my blood boil, the hypocrisy, the mindless parroting… it’s not good for me to be involved in, and I find that it takes only the slightest provocation to lash out and start an argument. Of course, in my mind at the time, I’m trying to prove a point, I’m debating, but that’s not the truth. The truth is that it doesn’t take much for me anymore to want to argue, and that’s just not healthy.
A friend suggested I watch The Social Dillema on Netflix. I initially resisted because I figured that I’ve been in the tech industry for so long I know what the AI is doing. I think more people should watch the show, but I didn’t think I’d learn anything I didn’t already know. But, having the day off today and nothing better to do, I watched it anyway, and I’m glad I did. There was nothing too revelatory in the show, but while watching it I did begin to second guess my participation in any platform that contributed to the decline in mental health and societal structure, and also contributing to a rise in depression, self-harm, and suicide. This is horrifying.
The crux of The Social Dillema is that technology has moved faster than our brains have had time to adapt, not to mention our societal norms and laws. We’ve gone from having to be physically together to socialize to socializing through a screen in a single generation, and now we are starting to see the effects. For me, I’m taking the War Games approach… sometimes the only way to win is not to play.
That’s not to say that I’m abandoning technology altogether. I still believe that humans can and will solve the biggest problems we face through technology. Climate change, overpopulation, pandemics, food and water shortages can all be overcome through technology. I believe in a future where clean energy powers our vehicles, green cities provide healthy and sustainable living communities, where we’ve reversed the effects of climate change, and where, through the building of this future, everyone has meaningful employment.
Furthermore, I believe in personal technology that works for you, where your privacy is paramount, and the systems we choose to use respect our time and mental health. So far I think Apple is doing a good job of helping to build this future, showing the path forward to a sustainable business model that prioritizes privacy over advertising. They could be doing more, but I think they are doing better than the other big players in the industry.
When I pick up my phone I want to know that I’m not going to get lost in an endless feed, that I’m not going to wind up arguing with a stranger, or worse, a friend. I don’t want to feel left out, insufficient, or incomplete. I want my technology to help me feel more on top of things, to help me make better choices, to eat better, sleep better, get more exersize, be more productive at work, and remember things for me that I might otherwise forget. I want technology to help me learn new skills, and help me hone old ones. To be the bicycle for the mind.
The answer to the dillema is not to abandone technology… the genie is out of the bottle there. The answer is to be mindful about how we use technology, and to demand better from the developers building these services and devices.
I’m an optimist. I believe we can have healthy relationships with our technology, and I believe that we can overcome the hardest problems our society faces. To do so we must understand the problems, generate in ourselves the desire to overcome them, and then start working together.