On Tech Fixing Tech

Recently, we have seen a number of software & hardware products (ScreenTime, Moment, Palm, Unplug, DistractaGone) being created with the mission of reducing our addiction to technology.

“We’re building an app to get you off your phone.”

While off the bat it sounds counterintuitive, here’s the bitten bullet: these products are now apart of us, so rather than completely defy their existence, let’s focus on fixing their “bad parts” — the behaviors they incentivize such as mindless scrolling, comparing digital highlights to real life, and spending a majority of time on memes rather than an insightful book, podcast, or in-person conversation.

Tech is not created equal. There are some forms of technology (cough Instagram cough) that induce behavior & thoughts (cough why does my life suck cough) that lead to one’s suffering. I’m glad we’re now talking about it.

Unpacking the addiction to unhealthy tech habits, sifting through likes, views & shares, we find the same desire that has been attached to society since its inception: achieving a sense of self by identifying with what you have vs. what they don’t have. Throughout history, this has been conveyed through different physical forms depending on the time period.

Since the early ‘10s, social media has provided us a 24/7 land of opportunity to achieve a sense of identity through digital forms: how many people retweet me, like my video, or share my article (most validation metrics are quantity-based). The deprivation of such technological forms by other technology may work for a little while, but it does not address the core issue, which I pose as a question: why do we seek to achieve a sense of self through external forms?

We need to peel back the layers of this deeply rooted issue a little further. Rather than putting technology to work, why not work on ourselves? It’s definitely more difficult, as there is no set of documentation on oneself, but it does require significantly less funding. By creating a solution from the same resources, we are solution-setting rather than delving deeper into where the real issue lies.

A Request

I ask for thought leaders to place an emphasis on spreading the importance of being mindful. Don’t just add it as a feature to your app. Building awareness requires practice, and does not immediately fix the problem, but I believe it will offer the permanency that the above, more immediate solutions do not.

As of now, one of the most effective forms of building awareness to thoughts, and ultimately actions, is meditation. It is not merely for giving your mind a break or to de-stress after a long workday. These are indirect benefits of committing to the practice. The true purpose of meditation is to understand oneself better, from a different perspective(s) than the one our default perception of reality presents to us. It’s a fascinating subject, because the main topic is you.

I strongly encourage anyone reading this interested in mindfulness to reach out. My email is nrizk6@gmail.com.