How living open source makes you more human
Technology is stripping us of our humanity.
Every day, more and more of us are assimilated into the heads-down culture of social media. It’s so easy to get caught up in the trap of believing this is fine, because “it’s social, right?” That means we’re socializing, right?
No. And it’s not fine.
Technology has become the gate-keeper for human-to-human interaction. It has created a paradox. As our network gets broader, our relationships get shallower. And while we are constantly connected, we are so incredibly alienated from one another.
Social media encourages us to keep our real selves on lockdown while presenting our idealized selves to others. We post the most flattering photos, write about the great days, and share stories we think highlight how we’re really good people. Either that, or ways you can make your farts smell like mint.
I don’t know about you, but it exhausts me and leaves me feeling unfulfilled.
Technology has changed everything about how we interact with each other. But the good news is it also holds the key to the solution.
Open source is a term that was coined in the late 1990s to describe software with source code that is available for anyone to access, learn from, and improve upon. It wasn’t a new idea though. Ever since software development began in the 1940s, programmers have been sharing ideas and code with each other to promote and advance the field of computing. Now open source principles have been adopted by fields as broad as eduction, healthcare, business, and government.
I’m a programmer, an entrepreneur, and a mom. And these things are not mutually exclusive. So when I’m home with my kids, the principles by which I live at work do not disappear. Because I believe the 5 principles of open source are not just helpful in advancing the fields of computing and business. They are fundamental for advancing all of humanity.
By living and making decisions in an open source way, we can reclaim the humanity that is so easily lost when we let technology come between us.
One of the first lessons we learn as a child is the importance of sharing. A baby hands a toy to a parent and beams as the parent exclaims, “Thank you!” and hands the toy back. Through playing this game hundreds and hundreds of times, the baby learns that sharing does not mean losing. In fact, sharing makes people happy.
Somewhere along the way to adulthood, we forget this lesson. As an adult, sharing means losing control. Transparency means exposure.
I challenge you to open up a bit and share something personal about yourself with people you don’t know so well—maybe your co-workers or “friends” on social media. The experience of sharing deepens our relationships and reminds us that there is more that unites us than divides us.
Another early childhood lesson is that it’s not possible to do everything on your own. (Try telling that to my 1 year old… Or my 4 year old.)
I speak from experience when I say I know it’s hard to work together. Collaboration can be an extremely frustrating experience and sometimes it feels like you’ll do a better job alone. But remember the proverb:
“If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”
There’s a reason proverbs like that stick around. For one, they’re catchy. But it’s also true. We are all in this mess together. And when we work together, we capitalize on the group’s strengths and carry those of us in weakness through the hard times.
And we all have hard times.
None of us are perfect. You will fall down. You will cry. And you will want to stay there. Especially if you’re alone.
The only way to get through failure is to acknowledge it, learn from it, and keep going. Failure leads to new perspectives, allows us to look at problems in new ways, and helps us find solutions in new places.
You might think that sharing your failures with others would be humiliating, but it is also a relief. Because failure hurts a lot less when you have other people to help you through it.
Keeping failures bottled up leads to feelings of shame all around. It becomes your dark secret. Meanwhile, the rest of us are looking at your ostensibly perfect exterior and wondering how on earth you manage to be so flawless. Which only magnifies our feelings of inadequacy.
So let’s be real here. The more we see failure as an inevitability, the more it can be seen as an asset.
The smartest move you can make is to try, fail, and try again. Because it’s the quickest way to improve. Practice leads to progress, never perfection.
Sometimes when you are entrenched in a problem, you need to take a step back and try a change of perspective. A good idea can come from anywhere, so don’t close yourself off to it based on preconceived notions. Weigh ideas based on their merits and not the people behind them.
This is somewhat easy when dealing in the third person. Is this idea better than that idea? But it is a huge challenge when you throw yourself into the mix. Is their idea better than my idea? Being an impartial judge of merit when you are in the running is tough.
It’s hard for me to remember this, but I try my best: Not everybody thinks the same way. Remember you don’t always have the answer and you’re not always right. Admitting you’re wrong—or throwing out your own idea—is not easy. But sometimes it’s the right thing to do.
It all comes back to love.
Act with the best intentions towards all humankind. Love one another. Love strangers. Love your neighbors. Love your friends. Love your family. And don’t forget to love yourself.
Treat everyone as a friend and give yourself freely without expecting something in return. Make choices that benefit humanity. Build community with others who are driven by a common purpose.
After all, to be driven by a higher purpose gives you direction. And when you work with others driven by the same purpose, you lift each other up.
I know what you’re thinking: Wow, she is so naive.
Maybe. Or maybe I’m on to something.
Three score and 13 years ago, the psychologist Abraham Maslow developed his famous hierarchy of human needs. It’s represented by a pyramid with the most basic of needs at the bottom. We can only ascend to a higher level when the needs of the lower tiers are met.
I hope that you’re lucky enough to have your physiological, safety, and love needs met. Now I don’t know about you, but I am struggling with esteem. And I know many others who are too. Personally, I suffer from depression and anxiety—and feelings of self-doubt and imposter syndrome.
Technology only feeds into this. The way social media is constructed keeps us down. Every time I go online, my inner demon starts saying “Everyone else is so much happier than me. Nobody else is struggling as much as I am. Everyone else has it so much easier than I do.” But these statements are categorically untrue.
This is where living open source can help. By sharing, working together, failing, being objective, and loving, we build a community of other humans who love us and want to help us succeed. When we have a network of people who lift us up in moments of weakness and cheer us on when we’re triumphant, we gain that esteem and can ascend to the pinnacle of human experience: self-actualization. And only then are we able to fulfill our full potential as humans.
So let’s seize the humanity we so easily let slip away through technology’s tenacious grip on us. There’s no problem with having a wide network, but don’t let the depth of your important relationships suffer. And stay constantly connected, but remember you’re not alone. Keep yourself open and remember we’re in this life to live it. So lets make it a good one.