Technology and Identity

Technology isn’t a problem; it’s neither good nor bad, neither here nor there. The problem is that we come to technology with certain expectations, beliefs about technology’s capabilities and promise. Then, we, as a culture, don’t think critically about technology’s efficacy. Instead, we apply our technological expectations to ourselves.

The basic premise of technology in contemporary culture promises that technology will make life easier. We’ll be more productive, more influential, more accurate, and better able to exist. 

Notice what happened?

I stopped speaking about technology and began speaking about technology’s users. By becoming the subject of the sentence, “we” lost subjectivity. “We” appears to be the agent, but we’ve lost our agency.

If we spend more time on the device than we would’ve done simply doing the task the device was pledged to simplify, we’re somehow at fault. We’re not strong enough to resist the ping of pleasure provided by the interface. 

We’ve failed because we’re addicts.

But we haven’t failed. We were promised the impossible dream: the ability to live a life without the pain and disorientation of living. 

The brutal truth is that it means something to be human, or, more accurately, being human means something. No person, plan, product, program, device, advice, or shortcut can make it easier to meaningfully relate. You can’t “hack” life, because life isn’t a computer. 

Tapping into the meaning of life, the true promise of our humanity, requires that we suffer, that we accept disorientation, discomfort, confusion, loss, and pain. 

Only a liar promises an alternative to life’s pain.

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