Has anyone noticed how ungrateful we’ve become in the past 5-7 years? As a collective modern civilization, we’ve become relatively bratty about a lot of things we have grown accustomed to eating, buying, and using—but perhaps nothing more embarrassingly than technology.
The incomparable comedian Louis C.K. put it best in his classic bit “Everything’s Amazing and Nobody’s Happy” captured hilariously on his appearance on Late Night with Conan O’Brien [VIDEO].
I have to say, I notice this constantly. In a half-dozen years, we somehow got from being awed by affordable and unimaginably capable technology to being perpetually preoccupied yet dissatisfied. What happened? There are a lot of valid answers—many that go without saying—but here is the main one in my opinion: people will behave as badly as they are allowed to behave. Generally, we don’t want strangers or loved ones acting like total shits because if they get away with it, then they might mess up our lives. Therefore, we try to keep ourselves in check so we have leverage. It’s an understood social contract.
But with technology, Internet and then affordable smartphones came so quickly and to most people at one time that we all sort of gave ourselves over together. At first, I remember everyone rolling their eyes at the douchebag on the cell phone in public… until we got cell phones then maybe we didn’t use them around people or while driving. Then they got really advanced and everyone mostly gave up.
I see stunningly thoughtless behavior with friends and family and respected colleagues—and I see bizarre distortions in what I once thought of as reasonable news outlets. It’s like the whole system has on one hand disregarded common sense and on the other hand come to expect mind-blowing and life-changing innovations every six weeks. Both seem really unhealthy. The more that we demand of technology and the companies that produce it—and the less we demand of each other and ourselves—the less we’re going to get out of it.
This past weekend, I caught the beginning of the movie “You’ve Got Mail” in which Greg Kinnear’s character unconvincingly attempts to convince his girlfriend that the electric typewriter, not laptops and the Internet, were the better choice. Of course, now his argument seems silly… even to me. And we now know that his was a loosing battle. But was it pointless?
My point is: is it pointless to swim upstream? The whole time I’ve been doing The Off Switch, I’ve maintained that it is my quest and not a technology Jihad. But even though I may reap countless personal, I can’t help but hope that other people will have a look at their own habits.
Not for me, but for humanity.