I was a high schooler when myspace came into existence. This was an important time for a new ingredient to be added into my milieu. Like many teens, I struggled with the rules that existed in a very lord of the flies time of life. There is much commentary on social media today, and even scientific studies about the effect on one’s brain to have so many relationships in this digital reality. However, at the time, myspace seemed to be owned by other teen’s like myself, and we were deciding what role it would play in our complex social structures. For me, it was pretty simple, I would hop on a plane multiple times a year, and head to Salisbury, CT from Bozeman, MT to attend high school. My primary circle of friends was in Montana, and myspace served as a lifeline to still be part of what was happening where other people could see my activity. They could see my pictures and who I spent time with. This was one of the most important aspects of high school social rules. Rather than thinking about who you like and what interests you have, relationships were often about how spending time with that person or group of people made you seem to those in the social class just above you. Of course, there were many blessed outliers who shirked this pallid construct.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found myself having some huge questions around technology and particularly about social media. I resonate with the Ecclesiastical proverb that there is nothing new under the sun. There have always been new innovations that impact the world in significant ways, and we move towards them with apprehension, not really sure how they will impact our lives. We try to create good guardrails around things that are seen as dangerous. I’ve grown to think that the internet and aspects of technology are extremely dangerous and we have done very little to protect people from it.
Anecdotally, I have seen my own addiction to my phone have a negative impact in my life. It creates less drive to go build relationships and be with other people (which as an introvert, I need things that build my desire to be with others). It fills a need the way that a candy bar satisfies hunger. It kind of deals with the hunger, but it leaves your teeth and gut rotting. These things can be difficult to see, but I started to wake up to this reality after killing my facebook account during college, back in 2009. It was in removing my facebook account that I became painfully aware of my addiction to control how others perceive me. This will drive you mad or at least create an angry gorilla in your chest that is difficult to calm down, and you will unknowingly curate your pictures and posts to create a certain persona. I already struggled with creating a persona to my personal detriment. I created tales and lies about who I was to control how I was perceived by others, and social media just super-charged this power of mine. However, what I was really longing for and what I’ve found to quench this rumbling inside of me is being known. It’s not in controlling the perspective of others, but in sharing my true self, my struggles, what questions I am asking about reality — it is in sharing these things that I find my hunger satiated. In posting to social media, I had not been writing to share something interesting or valuable out of life discovery, but I was saying something so people would perceive me in a specific way. The problem with this is that it kills growth. You spend your wad on curating a persona, and your energy to actually go out into the world, to grow, and to try new things that are scary evaporates. I was left feeling violated, and not really knowing why.
For the record, think about the financial model that drives social media forward. Spend the most time in the app, and they make the most money. This seems to be a case where the open market has incentivized a use of technology that is inherently anti-human.
Let’s say that you resonate with this, and agree, what the fuck do you do about it? The devices we carry are a big part of the problem. I’ve spent the last 10 years both pondering this question and using myself as a case study. This is something I will continue to do, but having a strategy for my devices has been key, and its ironic that new categories of devices has actually helped me find a balance that seems to be moving in the right direction. This strategy has utilized a mixture of controlling notifications (what can get to me without my consent) and using devices in a very specific way. For those curious, here is my current strategy with some notes about when to buy new devices:
Phone: used for hotspot/camera/phone/text/email and not much else. This device can be old and not the latest and greatest. Reason for upgrading: significantly better camera.
Watch: used as primary device. Should be able to play podcasts, audiobooks, music, receive calls/texts, order an uber and navigation. Reason for upgrading: significantly better battery life (get through 2 days) or untethered from phone. The phone is no longer necessary once the watch is standalone. The only thing required to replace the phone is a solid camera that uploads pictures to cloud photos account.
Tablet: this device is for consuming media (i.e. Netflix, Hulu, etc..), processing ideas (i.e. notes, etc..), and light development work (ssh to Linux). Reason for upgrading: most likely just every other release cycle - don’t need latest and greatest but do need solid performance for dev work. The tablet should have personal accounts on it as well as work communication without notifications.
Laptop: this is used primarily as a developer computer. It should not have personal accounts on it and should just be used for work.
My goal is to over time depend 100% on an SSH dev environment so as to only need a tablet and watch at some point. I currently have a fujifilm X-T10, and use a TopoDesign’s hipbag as my daily carry. Since I don’t carry a phone with me, I bring a notepad, book, and camera to still get the most out of my daily outings and survive in the modern world.