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Oft-ignored problem: Digital laziness

Digital laziness

I basically just invented the term “digital laziness,” but you’ve probably mentioned a variation of it at least once with your friends. Let’s try to break it down quick and clean here.

Digital got to scale very quickly. Maybe the stat you see the most is this one: it took 35 years to build the U.S. highway system, and that serves about 300 million people (maybe a bit more). Facebook was serving that many people in four years. Now, you can say back to me “One is a physical asset, and one is a digital concept,” and you know what? You are right. But you know what, Part II? That’s the point. The whole idea of “disruption” comes from the digital scaling of previously physical assets. Back when, maybe I needed a team of accountants, some “math machines,” and warehouses to run a business. Now I need apps and the cloud. Trite? A little bit, but not too far off.

Mobile scaled even faster than digital. The first iPhone was a little over a decade ago, and there are more phones on Earth than people. (Depressingly, way more people have access to a mobile phone than a toilet. We love stuff in the world.)

When stuff scales quickly with no real rules, usually some level of chaos ensues. If a company goes from four employees to 200 employees in a week, you can bet that next week is going to be a real doozy of a mess. Process, which is sacrosanct to most people, will be all over the place. People’s heads will explode.

Well, here’s what happened with digital and mobile scaling so fast:

  • It created tons of new jobs and ecosystems (good)
  • Because people didn’t know the rules, it also allowed a lot of consultants and “experts” to rush in and over-charge (bad)
  • We just started “doing it” (“Oh yea, I’m on Facebook”) and not thinking about it

The third bullet is where digital laziness begins.

Digital laziness and the passive like 

What’s the most passive action of the modern world? Some contenders might include nodding at someone on the street or saying “What’s up?” or “How’s it going?” Sadly, the de facto response to those latter two questions is now almost always “I’m so slammed!”

I’d argue it’s the like. Hitting like on something is easy. You scroll through a bunch of stuff and you hit “like” on various things, for a mix of reasons:

  • Everyone else seems to be doing it (new children, engagements, marriages, etc.)
  • There’s some personal political reason you’re doing it (to support or annoy someone)
  • You’re bored as fuck
  • “I dunno, it’s just a thing you do, right?”

This is digital laziness. Just mindless clicking. We all do it. Some of us literally spend our days doing it. You know you all have that one friend who seems to “like” every post on every platform ever posted. Go ahead, think of that friend now. Whisper his/her name to the wind.

What’s the problem with the passive like?

Nothing on the surface. You’re just supporting friends and acquaintances.

But you’re not thinking about the tech behind said “like.” Algorithms are literally designed to put people into pens/bubbles, because then corporations can look at what we “liked” and say, “OK, I will feed X-person over to Y-product.” That’s how the game is played.

Over time, though, all these passive likes and digital laziness created huge echo chambers which then (in small part) shifted political realities. That’s a whole thing. Now we mostly spend all day seeing stuff that already resonates with us; confirmation bias, once simply a psychological theory, is now a day-to-day norm.

How are we supposed to develop empathy as adults if we never see the other side in much of our day-to-day interactions?

Some other problems with digital laziness

Depression: Social media platforms are comparison theory on steroids, but people forget this. No one really wants to post a “bad” side of themselves on social, so a lot of people look at their friends and acquaintances and think “He/she is doing much better than I am.” This causes depression. Want to know how big a farce the whole deal is? When someone gets divorced or has a “reversal,” what do they typically do first? Go silent on social. It’s not a place you discuss real shit, for most people.




 

Facebook is the new email: Hot take time! But think about it. It’s super low-context (vaguebooking), 3/4 of the shit posted gets totally ignored, and it’s a great way to get run around in circles on bullshit like “Post the fourth pic in your phone.” Digital laziness got us here.

People forget the “action” step: If you Instagram a funny Trump meme and you’re hardcore liberal, doing that is not “fighting Trump.” Because of how algorithms work, most people who saw your LOL post already felt that way. Protesting and fighting are different in the modern age. You want to fight, you gotta do something. Go work for a state senator. “Liking” a post is digital laziness.

But hasn’t social media been this great connective tool?

Of course. It’s been awesome for many things. But it’s also made the adulthood “rat race” a lot worse. Very few things are universally good or universally bad. We deify the concept of motherhood, right? But some mothers are awful. We hate Hitler, right? Well, Hitler was a marketing genius. Everything has two sides. Social media and digital tools are just another example.

But people need to take the time to understand how these things work, and why they’re addictive to many. If we give into digital laziness, the problems just go on and on in circles.

What else would you add on those digital laziness issue?

Ted Bauer

2 Comments

  1. “Very few things are universally good or universally bad.”

    I agree wholeheartedly, but browsing Reddit for 5 minutes you’d get a very different take on that idea. I recently came across a post on there where someone seriously asked if Minneapolis was “the perfect city”.

  2. Re: the phones vs toilets, I suppose some might argue that both are equally crucial to pooping.

    I often “like” things bc either a) I know that the stats matter or b) I want to manipulate the algorithm.

    Anyway… I definitely need to work on my non-Facebook reaching out. This move west has reduced my brain to the peak (or valley) of laziness. I aspire to social energy!

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