I was invited to chat with Anil Dash about tech and self-care on the Function podcast’s season 2 kickoff. Function examines the intersection of tech and culture, and I’m grateful to have been invited to share my thoughts.
If you listen to my own podcast, Make Before Break, then you already know that my stance on tech in general is one of cautious optimism. Sure, there are all kinds of very terrible things online, but even given that, I can’t be convinced that we’d be better off without the technological advance we’ve seen in our lifetimes.
Look for the helpers
If the web writ large is the modern agora, then holy shit — it’s easier than ever to be agoraphobic (for me, at least). Enrage-to-engage platforms. Angry mobs and pitchforks. Vitriol and the worst kinds of warring tribalism.
And yet, all over, you’ll find netizens (yep, I’m old) organizing themselves into smaller, vibrant, supportive, and wonderful communities. Glitch is one such community. Micro.blog is another. People who care deeply about creating healthy spaces for exploring, creating, and sharing.
We’re not lost yet.
Do not disturb
Still, as I’ll tell anyone who’ll listen, it’s a special kind of hell we’ve created for ourselves where we carry a thing on our person at all times that defaults to… disturb.
We can do better. I believe that we can build a world that does not disturb, in every sense of the word. But it’s also not enough to point the finger at some gadget or platform and call our work done. Why does a notification trigger anxiety? Why are we addicted to our tech?
That brings up another theme we explore a lot on Make Before Break: introspection.
Habits aren’t easily formed (or broken, for that matter) without the introduction of manipulation techniques based on neuroscience. Being able outmaneuver your habits does require you to go deep on why X triggers Y for you. If you notice yourself engaging in a behaviour you don’t understand, or don’t like — step back and interrogate it. What’s the situation? What’s the draw? What’s the reward? How are you feeling, right now? How would you rather be feeling?
Tech-ing, fast and slow
We’re on the brink of quantum computing, and have rockets that fly into space and then land —on their feet— on robot boats. Technological progress is only going to accelerate. But, for my part, I’m always going to push for the artisanal approach to building things. Slowly. Thoughtfully. With a deep understanding of how your decisions affect your users, because you’re a part of their community, and they’re a part of yours.
Simply: you’ve got to care.