A memo written by Facebook VP Andrew “Boz” Bosworth in the summer of 2016 contained the following controversial passage:
“[Connecting people] can be bad if they make it negative. Maybe it costs a life by exposing someone to bullies. Maybe someone dies in a terrorist attack coordinated on our tools.
And still we connect people.
The ugly truth is that we believe in connecting people so deeply that anything that allows us to connect more people more often is *de facto* good.”
I’m not so sure. The world is more connected than it’s ever been, but does that mean it’s better?
It’s a mixed bag, I suppose. The new connectivity has enabled a power shift and makes it harder for tyrants and other power-brokers to control information and people. Conversely, it provides power-brokers with new, highly effective propaganda tools that can shift elections and move public opinion in ways that impact decisions from the local to international levels of government.
On a more personal level, based solely on my own experience and what I’ve observed with family, friends, and acquaintances, it’s hard to make the argument that the connectivity has been a life-enhancing development. It’s easy to make the argument that it’s created echo chambers in which people can hide and led to a huge amount of wasted time, hard feelings, social posturing, and loss of perspective. Admittedly, though, people know more about other people’s lives. But that’s not necessarily good. Our assumption that more is better needs to be subjected to closer scrutiny.
Society is still feeling its way with many of our new technologies. It’s impossible to know how it will all shake out. As with all the technologies that preceded it, these new ones undoubtedly will both contribute and detract from our quality of life, depending on how they’re used. It’s up to each of us to use them in a way that enhances our lives and avoids the deleterious effects. That is proving to be no easy task.
P.S. I gave up my Facebook account weeks ago and, frankly, am somewhat surprised I haven’t missed it at all. But I don’t.