I know this is supposed to be a business blog and maybe I’ll find a business point as I’m writing this but business is really quite far from my mind today. If you’re even a little bit aware of what is going on in the world at large and in our country, you’re probably a little bit distracted at well.
I’ve spent that last 25 years or so involved in technology, mostly in the content publishing and monetization space as well as online commerce. I used to think that what we were developing was going to greatly improve peoples’ lives. After all, nearly everything we’ve learned over the last couple of thousand years is at our disposal. We didn’t have to spend time shopping and could use our newly-available time to improve our lives and those of others. Boy, was I wrong.
Instead of improving things, technology has in many ways made our lives worse. Take news and information. 25 years ago, journalism was something that was a profession with standards. The news was fact-based, and those facts were researched and confirmed before they were disseminated. Now, everyone is a publisher (including yours truly). Even though the dream of unlimited information has come to fruition, much of what passes as “information” is, in fact, absolute made-up garbage that hasn’t been vetted by anyone. The people who control the platforms – Facebook, Twitter, etc. – refuse to step in for the most part. All of the bad things we thought were possible but unlikely given the noble mission we were on have come to pass, just as the mission has gone from improving lives to making as much money as possible.
I read what my friends post on social media. Inevitably, the comments revert to factless name-calling. I probably spend as much time checking out the veracity of what I read as I do reading the original pieces before ever commenting. When I do, it’s generally to provide the facts as best I can find them. Leisure time? Do any of you feel more relaxed as your use of technology has grown? More likely, you feel like you’re never disconnected from work, that you’re missing something and the amount of information that is thrown at you is overwhelming. Think about how many series or movies you’ve been wanting to stream. We’ve all mostly had the last month or so off. Are you caught up? Probably not, and that’s leisure stuff. Hey, thank goodness there haven’t been any sports or we’d NEVER get anything done!
Maybe that’s the business point today. No, we can’t turn it all off – we’re way past the point of no return. But maybe we can do a better job of prioritizing. Limit ourselves to the very few information sources that DO check their facts, even if they publish 10 minutes later. Find first-hand data, not third-hand reporting. Bite your tongue (or your keyboard) before responding to everyone with whom you disagree (seriously, have you ever changed anyone’s mind via a comment?). Breathe.
At many Grateful Dead shows, there came a moment when the crowd would have pushed forward so much that the people up front were getting crushed. Bob Weir would then say
“Alright, now we’re gonna play everybody’s favorite fun game, move back!… Now when I tell you to take a step back, everybody take a step back! Right? Right! Okay, take a step back! And take another step back! And take yet another step back! And another step back! Take a step back! Doesn’t everybody feel better?”
So take a step back, ok?