How to fight digital distractions, cut back on social media, and get the most from technology in 2022

Is technology a force for good?

It’s something I’ve thought and written about a lot in the last year, from the positives like the rise of the space economy and commercial drones to the negatives like the growth of fake news. Indeed, given how governments are silencing minorities and squashing free speech, it’s no wonder many people are worried about tech.

But, even in a world of dangerous conspiracy theories, there are reasons for optimism and hope! No, you don’t have to go totally offline; just exercise some critical thinking when you engage with the digital world, as Charles Dickens wrote in Hard Times (also available on Audible):

Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon facts: nothing else will ever be of service to them.

If you need more guidance, here are some of my favourite Seth Godin quotes from his 2021 blog posts, together with a recommended title from Blinkist.

Someone else is ringing the bell, and it’s been happening for so long we don’t even realise how deeply the hooks have been set. ~ The pinging 

Learn more: The Distraction Addiction

Any platform that’s reasonably open has a long tail. That means that a few people get most of the traffic and most people get very little. If there’s money involved, that’s definitely what happens. ~ Chasing the cool kids  

Learn more: Likeable Social Media

The internet isn’t a community or a tribe. It’s simply a technology that amplifies some voices and some ideas. When we don’t know who these people are, or if they’re even people, trust erodes. ~ Circles, networks and the trust layer 

Learn more: The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Humans understand that local leadership, sacrifice and generosity build community, and that fights and scandals simply create crowds. Countless people are showing up, leading and pushing back, but algorithms are powerful and resilient, and we need some of them to be rebuilt. ~ Circles, networks and the trust layer 

Learn more: New Dark Age

If you’re not paying, you’re the product, not the customer. And sometimes, even if you are paying, the long-term impact of your quest for convenience might not be what you were hoping for. ~ Blaming the user  

Learn more: Move Fast and Break Things

A collection of angry people talking past each other isn’t a community. Without persistence of presence, some sort of identity and a shared set of ideals, goals and consequences, humans aren’t particularly tempted to bring their best selves to the table. ~ Circles, networks and the trust layer  

Learn more: Reading the Comments

it feels safer, more productive and easier to go after the devices or systems or people that seem to be so close to getting it right. But it’s the laggards that cost us the most. ~ The opportunity of the laggards  

Learn more: An Ugly Truth

We’re now realising that we have the power (and perhaps the obligation) to use shared knowledge to make better, more thoughtful decisions. And to intentionally edit out the manipulations and falsehoods that are designed to spread, not to improve our lives. ~ The sixth layer  

Learn more: Digital Darwinism

Trends don’t determine whether we’ll be able to accomplish something tomorrow. But seeing and then understanding the trends allows us to work with the wind at our backs, instead of fighting it. ~ Untenable  

Learn more: Dedicated

Traffic from an algorithm isn’t the point, it’s a random bonus. ~ You can’t beat the algorithm  

Learn more: The Reputation Economy

The constant awareness that’s pumped in via the media rarely matches the experiences (positive or negative, exciting or not) that many people choose to experience every day. That mismatch often translates into unhappiness. ~ Shortages, momentum and the search for meaning 

Learn more: Notes on a Nervous Planet

Just because we can increase the digits doesn’t mean we can see more clearly. ~ Insignificant digits  

Learn more: The Filter Bubble

Books are written almost a year before they come out. Tweets take about 24 seconds to launch. Which world would you like to live in, book-world or twitter-world? ~ A long lead time  

Learn more: Ten Arguments for Deleting your Social Media Accounts Right Now

A generation ago, delivering the news was a civic duty. Now it’s a profit centre. The quick edits, the crawling text, the noise–it all exists to remind us of a thrilling movie, not of real life. ~ Production values  

Learn more: Future Tense

You can race to be first on a new platform, but it’s far better to be the voice that we would miss if you weren’t there. ~ What’s new? 

Learn more: Selfie

Of all the buttons and all the swipes and all the scrolls on all the websites, is that one you’re going to click next the very best thing you could be doing right now? ~ The next best click  

Learn more: You Are Not a Gadget

Trust and attention are in a long dance, but only trust wins in the long run. ~ The inevitable decline of fully open platforms  

Learn more: Unsubscribe

Technological change doesn’t always make things better. It often comes with significant side effects and costs. And yet, thanks to the vigilance and hard work of some folks, technology also has a long track record of making us safer, healthier and even happier. ~ Cyber-realists  

Learn more: Wikinomics

Technology that doesn’t solve a problem for the people using it isn’t finished yet. ~ Gift cards, serial numbers and hard technology  

Learn more: Future Crimes

There’s probably a better digital tool for the thing you’re trying to do next online. It might be worth a few cycles to ask and discover and learn. ~ The right tool for the job  

Learn more: Digital Minimalism

The next time we consider wasting an afternoon clicking on whatever baits us, perhaps it might make sense going for a walk instead. ~ Aimless clicking  

Learn more: 24/6

There are definitely conspiracies all around us. And, by definition, organisations often do things that are difficult to explain. But that doesn’t mean that all of those actions are the result of a conspiracy. ~ Truth is elusive, but it isn’t evasive 

Learn more: The Reality Game

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