I’m inclined to consider that technology has fundamentally changed human behavior as we know it.
We have acronyms dedicated to concepts like “fear of missing out” (FOMO) that permeate the various mediums that consume us every single day. I came from the ashes of the MySpace generation, where your top three friends had to duke it out in real life in order to be reflected in your top three friends on your digital homepage. But at least back in those days, the internet inspired a generation of creativity. I guess if you really consider what my first job was, it was designing graphics and web page for sale through a game currency. It was a game called Horseland (horseland.com – now retired), where you run a digital barn, including breeding, buying, selling and training horses. Gravitating toward a digital world that looked closely similar to the reality I wanted always seemed to make more sense to me than diving head-first into a fantasy world so fantastic that you often sacrificed meals and sleep. This is what I witnessed my two oldest brothers go through during my teenaged years – the mind-sucking drain of the internet gaming. But it was also a simpler time; one where we turned to the internet to get our hands on popular music, researching torrents, VPNs, and the next music downloader that hadn’t gotten busted yet (Napster, anyone?). We found utility in machines and connectivity and we leveraged it to create or acquire what we wanted in real life.
We didn’t go online to live real life, we leveraged online access and software tools to enhance our real lives.
I remember the first time my brother brought home an MP3 player. “While you carry around that CD player that skips and only holds 20 – 30 songs, I have this little MP3 player, and it holds fifty songs,” I remember him telling me. Consider me impressed.
I remember the rush of the very first time I ever held the first generation (at the time, it was just known as the only) iPod. The simplicity of the clean curves and the rush of adrenalin I felt when I first comprehended how to use the clickwheel – how satisfying it was to scroll at the speed of what, at the time, felt like lightning through lists upon lists of music that had once required an entire encyclopedia-sized album to house dozens of CDs without them getting scratched.
Apple presented a whole new world of music, at my fingertips.
It wasn’t until high school that I got my first cell phone – a flip phone that you could customize with different colored LEDs depending on the person calling you. Now that was high-tech. I can remember having to download ringtones and the thrill of customizing them depending on how I felt about a specific person or a situation we experienced together. Those were the glory days.
The days when we put technology to work – for us.
Then came the days of internet monetization – suddenly your favorite blogs, threads and internet games were littered with advertisement. Google algorithms were gamified to acquiesce to the gimmicky ad salesman act that used to litter the phone book pages. It was all thanks to the rise of social media data aggregation and exploitation that bred the next generation of marketers – myself included.
Fast forward to today, where we rely on technology to accomplish the most monotonous of tasks like answer the door or ask Alexa the weather. Technology has infiltrated our lives in the most subtle of ways to the point at which I rarely hold a conversation without interruption.
This generation is so focused on being found that we’ve forgotten what magic it is to be lost and alone.
I’ve been practicing yoga fairly consistently for about two years now. At first, it was a struggle. A hand-to-hand combat with my own ego. Muscles crying, heart pounding, sweat dripping and fear of looking silly for sixty whole minutes. Nothing but music and the instructor’s voice for me to hold on to. At first, the movements seem painful and awkward, my body not immediately accepting such odd twists, dips and pivots. As the movements started to become more natural, I started to experience the “flow” – that moment where your body, mind, heart and movement are in complete harmony. I equate it to a similar experience to riding a horse. Such a task requires total mind and body coordination that you don’t have the capacity to think about or do anything else. I think we, as a society, have started the very dangerous slide down the slippery slope that is cognitive discourse and contentment in giving up our privacy because we’re too lazy to pay attention to what’s happening beneath the surface.
Technology has always been described as a “disruptor”. We are disrupting this industry, this way of doing things – but technology is also disrupting how humans interact with one another.
Every experience you have on the internet was designed by someone who wants you to take a certain action, look a certain direction, or follow her idea of the consumer journey, or “marketing funnel” or “sales funnel” or whatever new-age terminology they’ve coined these days. It almost always ends in convincing you to buy a product or service that you otherwise would never have considered. Corporations are teaching the masses to accept these new forms of digital interaction as “socializing” by putting it as part of the naming convention: social media, another corner of the internet that is both the eternal optimist and the devil we know.
Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers. In fact, that is one thing I am quite certain – no one has any answers for what the future has in store for us in terms of technology. One thing I do know is that as the next generation beginning to step into leadership roles, it is our duty to stand up for what we believe to be morally and ethically sound. Every day you walk into your workplace, you make a choice. You choose to devote your time, energy and skills to the company that you work for. Do you trust in that company to make ethical decisions? Do you believe in what they stand for, or are you just cashing a paycheck?