We know Congress and Mark Zuckerberg won’t discuss the real technology problem. Neither will we. Ironically, it’s private.
Sure, the privacy issue is worth examining and big tech needs to get humbled. And because schadenfreude is the official sport of the internet, we’ll enjoy watching, meme-ing, and poke-in fun at Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony. (It turns out this is what one gets for the being the best at what one’s industry lauds the most.)
But when you go out to dinner with a group of friends and the subject of the internet comes up, the focus isn’t on social media’s invasion of privacy. No one is getting a little buzzed and saying, “My profile is being unethically shared to target me with ads that purport to know what I want. Now give me another drink.”
Besides, from the looks of most of the ads I see, the algorithm is an idiot. Trust me, the guy behind the register at the deli where I get my morning coffee knows me a hell of a lot better than Mark Zuckerberg ever will. Even if Zuck could figure me out, online privacy is never something we’ve given any sign we care about. The attention economy‘s lack of respect for our privacy is well established. There’s a hack story a day. All of our information has been stolen a thousand times over. And we just keep clicking away, often at the expense of everything else in our life.
And that brings us to what we really talk about when we talk about tech.
We talk about the fact that we can’t get off this fucking machine.
That’s what worries you and me. I’m worried about my son hanging out on Fortnite more often than he hangs out with me. I’m worried about the distorted body images and false values being jammed into my daughter’s Instagram and Musically feeds. I’m worried that my wife will only chime in on this topic after she’s made her next Words with Friends move. I’m worried that right about now, I’m refreshing this article’s stat page every three seconds or so. And save your sanctimonious comments about my family’s inability to set boundaries when it comes to our tech use. If you’re in the comments section of Medium article, you’ve got the disease even worse than I do.
It’s not that tech is all bad. It’s not all good either. It’s just that it’s everywhere, all the time. I don’t need to write a thesis laying out all the ways we’re hooked on this stuff. You know what I’m talking about.
And I’m not saying these issues aren’t related. Companies like Facebook will only be able to invade enough of your privacy if you spend enough time staring at their sites, apps, and emails. You being hooked is core to the plan.
But ultimately, it’s not about Facebook. Facebook could disappear tomorrow and we’d just build a new toy we couldn’t put down. A junkie doesn’t quit because one dealer gets busted.