Screen Time - Reality and Relationships
Part 2 of 2 - The impact of our time on devices on how we interact with the world.
Our Own (Virtual) Realities
While we were in North Carolina for two months, evacuated from the wildfires in Sonoma County, we felt the impact of being in a swing state. Since we live in California, we ended up having a number of discussions with neighbors on our street interested in our political viewpoints.
A neighbor shared a story about his kids. His two boys are teenagers, but were not old enough to vote. He asked them who they would vote for if they were old enough.
“We're seeing more ads that are negative about Joe Biden, I guess we would vote for Trump.” came the response. This laid bare the influence of screen time and political advertising on social networks and the influence of news sources vary varying degrees of responsibility and ‘truthiness’.
Our current world, where we're all behind our own screens, we really are each live in our own reality. We watched the film The Social Dilemma a few weeks ago. It's scary how good the artificial intelligence has gotten behind social apps - all optimized to keep us glued to the screen. Optimal engagement comes from reinforcing our beliefs, making us angry and outraged. Spreading conspiracy theories also drives engagement.
These apps are free, but as they say, if you’re not paying for an application, you are the product. We pay for it with our attention to the screen. We're on the precipice of a brave new world, one that needs massive regulation, and Congress is totally ill-equipped to lead.
The simple question I ask is: why can't political online advertising be regulated like political advertising on television? Wouldn’t that make sense as a starting point?
And while we’re at it, those conversations in North Carolina with people with opposing political viewpoints were the most healthy thing I’ve done in a long time - talking to people in person, not through a screen, builds empathy and reminds us we are all Americans.
Relationships From Behind a Screen
We once brought a class of startups from the Launch Pad accelerator program out to San Francisco for a demo day. We were invited to tour the Facebook campus by an executive with ties to New Orleans. After the tour, he talked about the difference between online networking and building relationships in the real world.
“Focus on your strong ties” he said “online relationships are loose ties.”
Loose ties are hard to build off. Years later, I think about how that advice came, ironically, while inside the belly of the beast at Facebook. I believe it's accurate. We can maintain relationships online, but we generally build relationships offline.
Screen time, especially right now during COVID, is having a positive impact on our daily lives. We may no longer be going to the office, we aren’t taking business trips at the drop of the hat, but we’ve proven we can be productive. In my last post, I talked about what the future of work will look like.
In current (and future) reality of working remotely behind screens, I think in-person time will be more important than ever. The depth of a great relationship comes from the depth of shared experience.
Liking a Tweet or an Instagram post - barely anything. A phone call or Zoom conferences - a little better. An in-person meeting, spending time together, taking a walk or a hike - the best.
We will reorient our relationship building and find ways to spend high-quality time in-person and not behind our screens. Building those relationships will create a bond that then can be maintained online through technology and social tools behind a screen, giving us back hours in the day.
In the last few months we are very grateful to have been able to safely visit family and loved ones, and I’m looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues next year and nurturing those relationships with some big offline hugs.