A Social Experiment.


A month ago I watched The Social Dilemma on Netflix. My mouth was agape for most of it. It was a seriously disturbing account of the devastating impact that software has on our human psyche.

“There are only two industries that refer to their ‘customers’ as ‘users’; illegal drugs and software,” said Edward Tufte, American statistician and Yale University Professor.

The movie left me with no doubt of the film-makers intentions – to discredit the large tech giants (Google, Facebook, Twitter and the like) and their very reason for existence – to label them as leaders in a new form of capitalism called ‘surveillance capitalism’.

They wanted us to believe that the world’s largest software companies are manipulating and directing our lives like puppets on their strings. Just like the coal and gas companies exist to extract and exploit our land for profit, many software companies exist to loot and exploit what’s in our heads for profit.

The mostly young white tech-bro’s who were interviewed for the movie, gave testimony after testimony about the practices and tactics our biggest household-names employ to keep us hooked. It was alarming how many of them had limited, and even banned, their own children from using the very technology platforms they’d had a hand in building.

Their argument was convincing  – we’re addicted to our devices and stuck in a virtual life not of our own wilful choosing.

As the movie credits rolled to an end, I sat stupefied on the couch, unable to move, one minute sad, the next angry, the next pensive and reflective. I took it as a sign that my own use of digital devices and social media needed a serious overhaul – both as a ‘user’ and a ‘provider’ of services.

I would try a new social experiment.

I deleted the social media apps from my phone and stopped engaging in it in a general way, limiting its use to my computer for 10 minutes a day and only engaging in the very few niche groups I belong to. As a business owner, it’s scary to remove oneself from socials. We’ve been led to believe we must be on everything, all day and every day in order for people to notice us and buy from us. I’m calling BS on that.

For now, I’m taking a dose of my own medicine and reconsidering the principles I wrote about in Conscious Marketing. I’m returning to what I love. That’s by connecting with human’s one-on-one and in small groups (hopefully Deep Dinners again in 2021!). I’m picking up the phone for chats, taking ‘walks and talks’, having coffee catch-ups and picnics in the park with business folks and friends alike.

As we emerge out of lock-down in Melbourne, perhaps I’ll end up with a new social dilemma? How to find enough time to connect with all the glorious people in my life that I truly care about. How about you?

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With love

About me: I’m a Purpose Educator and author of The Purpose Project. I help leaders attract and retain the best people by harnessing the power of deep purpose and storytelling. I do this through keynote speaking, a customised consultative process for co-creating a new purpose statement, the purpose storytelling course and The Purpose Project Coursea 7-step online course to help employees bring their own why to work.