Slaves to the Machine
I used to hang out with the hackers from the Chaos Computer Club, so I got to know through them the latest and greatest hypes and technologies before they where popular. What I also learned while hanging out with them is to be always cautious and suspicious about technologies, like voting computers, full body scanners, drones, you name it. With all it’s blessing, technology also always has a downfall. The saying goes: To invent the train is to invent the rail accident of derailment.
I was avoiding Facebook for a long time because there was way to much private info shared for my taste. I liked Twitter though. It was fast, my peer group provided me with good and interesting news, most of the people that I had in my Twitter feed were actually people that I knew and I could loosely stay in touch with them. And another aspect that I liked about Twitter was that it didn’t have much of a profiling, just a profile pic and a catchy phrase. And besides that funny or interesting tweets, of course depending on who you follow, but that’s completely up to you. People who posted to much about their food or every aspect of their private life — sorry to say, nothing personal — got unfollowed, because I don’t like to clutter my brain with random info.
Then I started to work and be more professional and as it comes with modern society, social media and connectivity is part of that. It is not necessarily mandatory also depending on the profession you have, but working like I do with web technologies, it is well advised to not completely avoid it.
Then I started my Facebook account. Or I started using it because I actually had it since a while but never used it. That is due to the fact that even though I’m not actively using a technology, I still am monitoring it because I’m curious about it’s pros and cons and effects on society. I try to keep my newsfeed neat so that the info that reaches me is actually useful and pics of shit-faced people from last nights party is not really the most useful info. And other private pics can maybe awaken the inner voyeur in you, but in the end we all know there is no real informative gain from that. The question of course is where to draw the line, but this everybody has to figure out for himself.
One feature that I value on Facebook, that I actually wasn’t aware of before, is the event feature. I’ve discovered so many awesome little events in my town or elsewhere and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss out on them. And before there was no forum or service that I knew of for this kind of need. Whenever I thought ‘Isn’t there something nice going on near me?’, I had no clue were to look. Facebook is actually the best tool so far for that and I like that you find those events additionally while reading interesting articles about politics or art or whatever floats your boat.
Lately, and I can totally understand that, there is more and more critic going on about Facebook and social media in general. This critic also comes from the fact that your newsfeed gets altered and maybe your opinion gets manufactured, that corporations monitor your behaviour and try to monetise it. This is a bigger topic that I will only scratch briefly here, but I think if your only info seeking machine is Facebook then that’s part of the problem and not only that Facebook is engineering your feed.
But mostly there seems to be this need for digital detox in general because it is too much random information scrolling through your brain. All these open windows and no fresh air.
For me however technology is a neutral tool. What you use it for lies completely in your own hands. It’s like a white piece of paper, it only starts to have a certain kind of meaning depending on the words and phrases that you write on it or pictures that you draw on it.
A wise man, Nietzsche was his name, once said “He who cannot obey himself will be commanded.” It is always good to have a Nietzsche quote somewhere in between…
Anyhow, if you are having problems to control yourself, there are even tools for that. If you like to go through your newsfeed in the morning and you stumble over interesting articles but don’t want to read them right away because it would fuck up your working day, then use ‘getpocket’. It’s a useful tool that saves all your articles in one place so you can read them later when you have time. If you really cannot control yourself not to check Facebook or whichever service then use ‘selfcontrol’, an app that blocks specific website for a certain amount of time that you can specify. Or delete the app from your mobile phone. If you are annoyed by your newsfeed, then alter it in a way that it actually serves your brain and your habits well. It is also completely up to you what kind of content you yourself share with others, if you want to share good articles, free online language courses, beautiful art that you’ve seen or created yourself, shortly speaking valuable information or just random nonsense like cat pics (there are some funny ones though, I’ll show you later) or I don’t even know because like I said my newsfeed is pretty neat. And if you don’t have to say or share anything at all, it’s also fine to (pardon my french) shut the fuck up for a while. Also in real life that is not a bad thing to do. We don’t always have to blabber around just because we exist.
My point here is that the use of technology always needs to be adjusted so that it serves the human and not that we become slaves to the machine, but that is solely in our own hands. As technology will develop even further, this process is of course an ongoing and never ending task. It is the first time in the history of humanity that there are actually tools out there that make connectivity between people from completely different places possible. This is very powerful and I think abandoning those tools is the wrong path. Rather use it wisely and overall consciously, use it for your own and humanities benefits.
The featured image illustration is from Scott MacDonald