big day for facebook! i know i’ve written about this already, but it seems topical and i found some more stuff today about it and there were some add on points, so thought it justified another entry. okay, this entry is lacking. bite me.
“The answer, in the peer-reviewed study of the online habits of girls aged 8 to 12, finds that those who say they spend considerable amounts of time using multimedia describe themselves in ways that suggest they are less happy and less socially comfortable than peers who say they spend less time on screens.”
from a stanford study via the wirecutter.
More recently, he has become the go-to pundit for people lamenting the social changes wrought by modern technology. Last year, he published “You Are Not a Gadget: A Manifesto,” a provocative critique of digital technologies, including Wikipedia (which he called a triumph of “intellectual mob rule”) and social-networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, which he has described as dehumanizing and designed to encourage shallow interactions. Teen-agers, he writes, may vigilantly maintain their online reputations, but they do so “driven more by fear than by love.” In our conversation about Facebook’s face-recognition software, he added, “It’ll just create a more paranoid society with a fakey-fakey social life—much like what happened in Communist countries, where people had a fake social life that the Stasi could see, and then this underground life.”
i’m not at all interested in telling people what will make them happy or unhappy; i’m a big believer that we are all free agents and rational, smart human beings that can make our own decisions to maximize our happiness. but, i think, to quote brian lam, i personally am in desperate need of an information diet. (generally not a good sign when angeles calls you “the internet” or you’re the first to see the next “shit people say” video, always). the fact that i can get away with it at work doesn’t help, and it has honestly spiraled a little out of control the last couple months. i haven’t quite figure out how to do this, but like an actual diet (which is also really difficult to do, given my extremely limited willpower), it will require some intention and planning. i will think about this.
(i also think that twitter/facebook/etc can be used in really productive, satisfying, nontrivial ways that normal communication cannot facilitate. that would be my response to the luddite above)
i came across this really fun, interesting, heartfelt, perhaps a bit too heavy-handed self-made documentary about what happened after a guy quit world of warcraft:
via laughing squid
You do anything long enough to escape the habit of living, until the escape becomes the habit.
haha, dramatic and poetic and one of my favorite rhetorical devices. big zinger.
but it’s sort of wild how difficult it can be for you to really comprehend how big of an effect something like warcraft or facebook can have on your life when you are absolutely immersed. chained to the deep end of the pool, like me.
but two additional points:
1) is happiness relative? wealth is, by definition, relative. why not happiness?
this is one of those questions where i always get harangued when i ask it in person, because it makes me come across as a petty, terrible human being. and i appreciate/understand that. but can anyone please validate me? and it frustrates me because I FEEL LIKE EVEN PEOPLE WHO SAY THAT THEY DON’T BELIEVE THAT HAPPINESS IS RELATIVE ARE LYING TO THEMSELVES.
don’t get me wrong, when my friends succeed, a majority of my feelings are positive, usually an overwhelming majority. but i definitely harbor a sliver of “god, what have you done with your life, james!?” if i am single and want to be in a relationship, i am much more likely to be “fine with it” when i’m around my single friends who are also struggling with the same issues than if i’m around people in serious relationships. same with dream jobs or being around people who have their lives sorted out. do we not implicitly use our environment as a measuring stick for our own lives? for money, we want more apple, more travels, nicer places, and nicer cars than the next person. doesn’t that mentality transcend money?
happiness is relative perhaps is not exactly articulating my emotions. but cmon, way more catchy. but fine, this is the “den of comparison” argument in a slightly more ugly phrasing. okay, maybe den of comparison is more catchy.
THE ANSWER IS OF COURSE to set personal goals and be happy with your own personal success. which i think i do. i mean, i want to stress that this “happiness is relative” idea is not at all a predominant emotion, but it certainly exists and i should strive to move beyond thinking that way.
2) should we spend more time producing rather than consuming? would like to credit this to angeles. really nice framework.
basically, (she probably heard this from a podcast, let’s be real) the idea is that for most activities, we are either CONSUMING (reading, listening, eating) or PRODUCING (writing, constructing, adding value). and basically, in today’s world, people are starting to consume more and more and producing less and less.
side question: given that there is such a deluge of STUFF out there, is it even worth “producing” unless you’re going to rise above it all?
At the South by Southwest Interactive conference, in Austin, in March of 2010, Lanier gave a talk, before which he asked his audience not to blog, text, or tweet while he was speaking. He later wrote that his message to the crowd had been: “If you listen first, and write later, then whatever you write will have had time to filter through your brain, and you’ll be in what you say. This is what makes you exist. If you are only a reflector of information, are you really there?”
to close, a really nice, inspirational piece with a silicon valley twist that touches on the above and more:
Within many large companies, brilliant engineers are convinced to toil away at ultimately-unimportant features. When the company was one-tenth its size, they would have worked on projects with ten times the long-term impact, but now measure success by the number of users they touch rather than the value they create. But do millions of eyeballs really make the work more meaningful? Our brightest minds are recklessly allocated to turf wars where winning is paramount above all else. When did beating the competition or protecting your existing business become more important than serving users?
I do not doubt that services like social games and coupons bring delight to people’s lives, and I mean no disrespect to the hard work that has made them possible. But in the face of threats to humanity’s future on the one hand and the extraordinary potential of mankind on the other, at some point we must ask: are we capable of more?
I wrote this post from my heart to remind you, my peers, to look regularly and honestly into yours and reflect on your deepest values. Life is short, youth is finite, and opportunities endless. Have you found the intersection of your passion and the potential for world-shaping positive impact? If you don’t have a great idea of your own, there are plenty of great teams that need you — unknown startups and established teams in giant companies alike.