Here’s a great article documenting many of the probably thousands of reasons that the internet is bad for us: We Are Hopelessly Hooked
It reads like something that could’ve been written by Jerry Mander or Ivan Illich. Constant use of—and need for—digital technology, i.e. “devices,” has broken down social units, has hobbled solidarity, and has completely destroyed connections with ecosystems. That last one is not just bad for humans but for all life, since the one thing one should know about ecosystems, if nothing else, is that they are interconnected.
Devices have also made people kind of boring, while simultaneously creating the illusion that everyone is suddenly living fascinating lives. Yes I realize I just wrote that sentence on a blog.
Of course one always has to end a critique of technology on a positive note, because what a bummer, to realize that it’s already too late, and that undemocratic “advances” cannot be ameliorated—let alone dismantled—with “democratic” means. And yet:
Despite the picture she paints of digital damage to nearly every kind of human relationship, Turkle remains optimistic that we can gain control of technology or, as her book’s title has it, reclaim conversation. Even teenagers who don’t remember a time before social media express nostalgia for life without it. One place they still experience friendship without divided attention is at device-free summer camps, where they return after six weeks more thoughtful and empathetic—only to plunge back into the “machine zone.”
How can we enjoy the pleasures and benefits of mobile and social media while countering its self-depleting and antisocial aspects? Turkle keeps her discussion of remedy general, perhaps because there aren’t many good solutions at the moment.
Harris wants engineers to consider human values like the notion of “time well spent” in the design of consumer technology. Most of his proposals are “nudge”-style tweaks and signals to encourage more conscious choices. For example, Gmail or Facebook might begin a session by asking you how much time you want to spend with it that day, and reminding you when you’re nearing the limit. Messaging apps might be reengineered to privilege attention over interruption. iTunes could downgrade games that are frequently deleted because users find them too addictive.
These are helpful suggestions—more thoughtful apps, and apps to control our apps.
Yes, let’s fight the problem with the problem, again.