Tech addiction backlash?

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Americans have become “food aware,” and the resulting knowledge has a growing number of people pissed off at the processed food industry.

Turns out some types of foods are designed to be addictive. Morgan Sperlock publicized this years ago in his documentary Super Size Me, but he’s not alone. Consider this quote from Michael Moss writing for the New York Times Magazine:

What I found, over four years of research and reporting, was a conscious effort — taking place in labs and marketing meetings and grocery-store aisles — to get people hooked on foods that are convenient and inexpensive. I talked to more than 300 people in or formerly employed by the processed-food industry, from scientists to marketers to C.E.O.’s. Some were willing whistle-blowers, while others spoke reluctantly when presented with some of the thousands of pages of secret memos that I obtained from inside the food industry’s operations.

Quite an indictment, food as a designer drug.

If Michael’s claims are true, public anger seems justified. Similarly, the tobacco industry is a unanimous villain for designing cigarettes to be addictive.

Making addictive products, especially when the desired addiction damages public health, is bad. So, following that logic, why isn’t anyone mad at the tech industry?

Do you think it’s by accident that every person on an elevator, or most stopped at a red light, or even couples having a “romantic” dinner, are looking at their phones?

The tech industry designs their interfaces for maximum addiction, just like the makers of slot machines, who they are said to admire. Consider this quote from a Verge story describing a state called the “zone,” which is a haze many slot machine players find themselves in:

The “zone” is flow through a lens darkly: hyperfocused, neurotransmitters abuzz, but directed toward a numbness with no goal in particular.

Focused with no goal in particular?

Sounds like most people I know on the internet (myself included). What is usually accomplished on Facebook or Twitter other than mind numbing browsing?

Tech business models are predicated on user acquisition and retention. The idea is to keep you on their platform for as long as possible (to look at their ads), and then to bring you back as soon as possible after you leave (so you can view more ads).

The result? You crave the appearance of the little red flag that is evidence of a new Facebook friend request, or a new Twitter notification delivered to your phone in real time.

Fact is these notices are nonevents 99.99% of the time, and yet we continue checking for them. Checking for email, for new Tinder matches, whatever the case.

This digital addiction can be just as dangerous to our health and wellbeing as bad food.

It causes stress and sadness, destroys our attention spans, robs us of enjoying real moments with people we love, keeps us from sleeping well, causes fatalities on the road, and can even lower sperm count.

Does the tech industry have an ethical duty to design their products in ways that encourage healthy interaction?

Update: October, 23, 2016 – check out this article in the Atlantic on iPhone addiction, very important piece.

That palm shadow

Struck by the beauty of an urban California night,

by the power of that palm shadow,

a touch darker than the dark night sky,

– reminds you of your presence in a world great place –

Driving away from a mistake dinner,

if there can be such a thing,

where a bright young girl announced her affiliation with you to the group she leans on for support and identity.

You could see she was proud to be with you,

even though you’re too old to comfortably blend.

It’s sweet to shine for someone,

even as you’ve just emerged from your own unkempt house.

Lovers give us hope,

That the pretty version of ourselves is real.

We spend time with them on special California nights,

with the moon on the ocean,

just up ahead.

We let them shine,

and so do we,

but we don’t see they don’t love us.

We don’t see they don’t see us.

Maybe one day we’ll rest with a Jack,

or a Jill,

or maybe all we’ll ever do is search.

On you go

Stop,

and let your mind listen,

to the sounds of New York City in the snow.

The trucks,

and the men who drive them,

expect nothing from you.

Solo taxis through the slush on Bethune,

making their way to the river,

their small beacon sounds,

float into my kitchen.

The stones,

and the bricks,

and the wood,

no longer speaking hierarchy.

They don’t know.

No one does.

Listen to the streets.

To the snow.

Your stories,

superimposed on it all,

were always a lie.

but you can’t have it back,

so on you go…

The magic of women

Some men fear,

the familiarity of a woman.

Women to them are for “fucking,”

for chasing,

for showing off.

Time wipes away the shine,

which they anticipate,

as the end of their prime.

But some understand,

that familiarity is the magic of women.

They can look on,

satisfied,

as two reunited friends giggle again as girls,

Telling stories about the boys,

who were once on their heels,

barely catching a European train,

remembering always,

that the beauty they were given,

as softer,

more hopeful men,

birthed a duty,

that echoes well beyond,

the waning light of the ego’s fearful campfire.

Better before more

No matter what we do, most of us want “more.”

Growth is practically a religion in the world of startups. There is a hyper focus on growing businesses, and growing them fast. It’s the same in other industries. My friends who work in salaried positions are always scheming on ways to get more salary.

There is nothing wrong with more, but it’s a mistake to ask for more without first understanding the foundation of more, which is better.

More rarely comes before better.

If you want more, get better.

That will get you more.

Like all the others

Reading alone,

a temporary reprieve.

I sit back,

and glimpse,

a far away day,

where,

like my father,

I am not afraid to die.

Where I smile for my daughters,

or,

perhaps,

my sons,

at the storm raging outside.

It can’t touch me, you see.

I worked,

to fortify a smile.

I will not become,

a victim,

like all the others.

Be a lion

Be a lion,

just don’t tell a soul.

Take your turn with quiet,

be unsure.

Swallow your roar,

take small, grateful steps,

understand,

You don’t understand,

the men you see.

Wear your oldest coat,

in proudest company,

accept the defeats you’ve been given,

love them as gifts,

think with unworthy simplicity,

for a great mind like yours.

Ignore every aspect of your hunger,

look past it,

to the days when your place has been taken,

and thank God for those days too.

Bathed in danger,

exposed to shame,

but,

never threatened,

never scared.

Be a lion,

just don’t tell a soul.

I know some friends

I know some friends,

(not more than a few),

that shine so damn bright.

Who I want you to know that I know.

Their beauty is lucky for everyone.

It gives with innocence.

They’re talented,

but they’re more than that.

All their details matter.

They put permanent stamps on forgotten weekdays,

which is why,

I can’t quite understand,

or relate to,

folks who believe,

That those lights ever stop shining.

The Convent Across The Street

*Written in 2012*

Fourth floor walk up.

No outlet in the bathroom.

I walk around naked,

to the kitchen,

to blow dry my armpits, dick, and balls.

Claire says it will dry out my skin.

Full length mirror,

don’t mind what I see.

The Girl who used to live here walked around naked too,

subject came up when I toured the apartment with the broker, Sandra.

Said she shouldn’t have because there is a Convent across the street.

She was nice and funny,

but I throw away her mail when it comes here.

This will be a sad poem

This will be a sad poem.

The tale of a phantom chased.

You read she didn’t exist,

But you saw her everywhere.

And so you believed.

That led to the negotiation.

Competing in a game you’d rather not win.

Yet you can’t stop playing.

You need the phantom,

you want the phantom.

Catch her and you’re guaranteed a sunny Tuesday.

She’ll give you fleeting momentum.

A currency with the others, a tit for tat with their rat race glories.

But the truth…

it sticks,

and you can’t quite forget,

that you spent all of your progress,

On a “need,”

driven by a peg,

many rungs beneath,

your blue square Boyne Highlands days,

of early youth.