It was February 2004. The Student Union was quite empty, and one of us had discovered a site, thefacebook.com. It seemed like a nifty place, like MySpace or Friendster, but it was only for those universities that were invited — we were school 34, I think.
Since then a lot has happened — the rest is history, as they say.
Seeing how we have become accustomed to zoning out on our devices, compulsively checking status updates or merely falling captive at any headline that washes over the screen, has given me pause recently. Trust has been somehow built, enabling us to take information at face value. Imagine this conversation:
Person A: “Did you hear…?”
Person B: “Where did you hear that from?”
Person A: “I can’t remember, somewhere online.”
Sources have almost been lumped into one, indistinguishable and therefore irrelevant.
Certainly, the advent and implementation of various algorithms (designed and maintained by a group of human beings) hold some of the blame, but this is only part of the story. Like your grandmother who clicked a link to give money to a fictitious Nigerian prince, we need to be more aware or mindful in how we use technology — for that matter, in our lives more generally. Being deliberate in how we spend our time and where we place our attention.
As someone studying business and digital marketing strategy, it is important to understand this, from both perspectives of the for-profit organization and all of us as human beings. It may have been a reasonable assumption to think of people as being responsible for their actions in earlier times, but what now when it appears our ability to be deliberate seems to have become disabled?
How do we balance our need to grow and control demand with what is in the best interest of our users as human beings? How much of our design has manipulated their behaviors beyond what is reasonable?
In the meantime, it is a terrific time to take a step back and inventory our own behaviors with respect to technology use. What percentage of what you do is purposeful and what amount is out of boredom or habit?