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  • Larissa Schwartz

Take tech back

I'm searching for people who want to take tech back. No, I don't want to go backwards. Although I'll admit that sometimes the idea of having less technology sounds like a great way to go but that's easier said than done. And I need to stay connected. Going off the grid isn't going to happen in the world I inhabit and there's still so much good technology can do for humanity.


What I mean by taking tech back is fairly simple when it comes down to it: people first, technology to support human needs. In the past decade, we've become distracted, disconnected and in some cases, depressed and anxious, because of how much noise we are bombarded with almost every hour of every day. We give our personal data away, myself included, even if we don't necessarily want to but the terms and conditions are too much to read. Even if we do read every word, if we want to stay connected to our friends and families, we have to click accept and move on.


I saw The Great Hack a couple of days ago and though the documentary wasn't about anything I hadn't already learned, it was positive reinforcement. I want to make sure people truly understand what technology has done to us so that we can go forward with as much awareness as possible. This isn't new. The documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply is six years old.


The Great Hack is more about hacking our mindset, our assumptions and our behaviors than it is actually about what the word hack means. Hacking into our polling places happened in 2016 by pushing our buttons via social platforms. It's not me saying this. There is plenty of evidence. A two-part Frontline called The Facebook Dilemma is out there for anyone to watch. Educating ourselves is as easy and scrolling through news feeds.


While it's important to know what we've gotten ourselves into with the apps, the screen time, the data, the metrics, it's not the most crucial aspect of the predicament. What is truly important is how we treat each other and that can get lost in the storm of social media. I'm starting to think should be called antisocial media because of the ways it has divided and pitted people against one another instead of creating the meaningful connections it promised.


Instead of talking to each other, we have textlationships. When we have difficult interactions at work it is often because we're hiding behind email instead of having a phone call. We compare ourselves to almost everyone when we're looking at how many Instagram likes we have or how many LinkedIn connections are on our profile. Do these things make us better for one another? Not usually. They mostly perpetuate a storm of silos in workplaces and hideaways in homes and a disconnect from daily reality that is happening all around us.


When a storm passes what's left is a bunch of people who need to clean things up. I'm thinking a lot lately about how I can help do that. By shining a light on what is happening to people because of our hyper-mediated world and helping people see their own part in it, I think we can get better at making sure we're driving technology.


A friend of mine said, 'the robots are going to take over' but we don't have to let that be the case. She also said that she wants to be part of something and I know what that feels like. By finding the places where people are thinking about these things, like the Center for Humane Technology, I have hope that I'll be able to be part of something that helps people see and be part of the change for the better.

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