One of my recent posts on Mastodon got me thinking about the current tech dramas. Then it got deeper and I’ve spent too much time thinking about values and what people really care about.
My first thought was related to discussions I’ve seen about the current state of social media. There are people who argue that Mastodon needs to grow, Bluesky needs to go public, or Threads needs to connect to the Fediverse or introduce a chronological timeline. I thought none of that mattered, and then I started writing the Mastodon post. Well, five hundred characters isn’t enough to express my overthinking mind, so here we are.
I don’t think it matters anymore either. All this discussion about what form social media should take. The problem isn’t the way they work. The problem isn’t even with these platforms.
The real world is out there, and so are the real problems. Sure, big platforms enable us to do more harm than before they arrived. They are responsible for a lot of evil out there. Can they make the world even worse? Probably yes. But the solution is not the new platform, and it doesn’t matter if it’s decentralised, it doesn’t matter what promises it makes. Technology won’t save us.
Over the years, I’ve seen so many promises made by so many startups and entrepreneurs. They’ve argued why their product is the one that can save the world and why we should trust them. No one has ever delivered on those promises. Instead, we hear a lot about a new scam or a new investigation because someone robbed a few banks. Does it really matter if someone steals billions from other billionaires using crypto, or does it matter if someone kills another social media app?
Do we really need to spend so much time discussing these scammers and assholes? I know they are a threat to democracy, so we have to warn everyone out there, we have to monitor the big tech companies and make sure they don’t destroy anything. We have to rescue people who are less tech-savvy and help them open their eyes.
The ugly truth is that they don’t care. Normal people out there don’t care. They have problems, they have their lives and they struggle. They use Instagram to get some entertainment and that’s it. That’s all people are looking for. A bit of fun, something to distract them, a break from the brutal life.
They are falling into a trap cleverly set by the greedy, heartless rich. And they don’t care. We are the ones who want to save them and they don’t want to be saved. We see the threat to democracy, maybe even to their lives, but they don’t and they won’t. Who are we to judge them? Let’s face it: it’s a privilege to have the time and resources to fight for free media or the right not to be surveilled.
Personally, I’m tired of all these dramas, all these fights for an idea. People don’t care who runs their country, they don’t go to the polls, so why do we think they’re going to care about some big tech companies from a faraway country (yep, there is a whole world outside of the US) making money off their private data? It is really a privilege to be able to think about that.
And I’m beginning to think it doesn’t really matter. Our focus helps these companies grow. We’re giving them attention, and our fight for a better future is feeding their greed. That’s the second truth we have to face. They – the big tech companies – don’t care whether they are in the centre of the stage or in the shadows. They’ll find a way to make money and they know how to monetise our resistance. The machine is well prepared to consume any kind of energy.
Does that mean there’s nothing more we can do and it’s time to give up? Not yet, I think.
I often oscillate between apathy and the will to act. I know we can’t do much, but I think it’s important to try. But it’s also important to change the focus of the struggle. What are we really fighting for? What do we want to change? Do we really want to get rid of them with their big greedy platforms? Or should we remember that the people are their users? It’s about people, not the tools they use. It doesn’t matter if a new tool grows up and replaces the existing one, because it’s controlled by a very big toddler. What matters is humanity and community. I don’t think we can change anything just by trying to destroy the big evil corporations. How is that even possible? No, we can’t. What we can do is educate the people around us, ask them what they really need and show them alternatives. And learn to deal with disappointment when we learn that sometimes there isn’t a good alternative. Not everyone is enlightened enough to choose the more privacy-friendly platform over the more convenient one.
But sometimes we can only do one thing. Sometimes we can only take care of ourselves and our loved ones. And that doesn’t mean surrender. Every hero and every heroine needs a time to recharge, to regroup, to rethink what he or she believes. Everyone has a right to be tired, to have doubts, to need space for themselves.
I’ve learnt through different situations that it’s enough if everyone takes care of themselves and the closest community around them. It doesn’t mean being selfish. It means being an example for the people around us. You don’t have to change the whole world. It’s enough to change the lives of a few. You can fight one big battle for one very big idea, or you can fight many small battles for ordinary things right under your nose. Is it worse to take care of those we love? Take care of yourself and those you love.