If there is anything I’ve tried to be conscious of lately with tech it is the negativity. Being negative on everything has long been my own crux and, the more time I spend online, the more I realize I’m not alone.
Tech folks have a natural tendency to, instead of uplift anyone, want to put everything, and pretty much everyone, down. Want proof? Say publicly that you like something, anything really (Linux, Apple, some app, some website, etc) and chances are that any replies you will get will be negative. It’s a contagious issue that is so widespread I don’t think most of us even realize we’re doing it.
I’m sure no exception. From the posts on this site to those I post anywhere else most of my time is spent being critical rather than positive. I’m always switching tech for “better” even when better isn’t really even a solid concept much less something exists. It gets absolutely exhausting and serves no real purpose.
In my case I do this with the idea of somehow I’ll find tech by more ethical companies in a system in which ethics is rarely more than a coffee talk concept. Apple, Canonical, IBM, Mozilla… the list goes on and each and every one of them has problems.
I’m not saying we need to support all bad players. For example, avoiding abusive media like Twitter or Facebook or so much other media that we don’t need is a good and very doable thing. There is a point, however, where you either have to pick a problematic tool or you can’t do your job and I think that’s where many of us need to stop being so negative.
I use and love Linux. I’m typing this post from my Framework laptop and it is a very enjoyable system but it isn’t my primary computer. Most of my tech today is Apple and I’ve been beating myself up for a long time trying to get to something “better” because Apple has many, many ethics issues I don’t want to support. The catch is everything I switch to isn’t much better. From Big Tech masquerading as ethical FOSS companies to small FOSS companies hiding their own abuses all tech really is shit and knocking what someone else needs to use isn’t going to change that.
One principle many in tech like to point out about Big Tech is that no one is going to change it from the inside. You’re not going to start working for Google or Facebook or someone else as an ethicist and be able to do anything to actually change their business model. Many have tried, all have mostly failed.
We like to think the alternative to changing individual companies from the inside is to build our own tech but changing an industry that all drinks from the same money fountain isn’t going to change things either. Your choice of Linux or Windows or Mac is no more ethical than my own because all are problematic.
Today I’m trying to, if not embrace this fact, live with it. There are things we can do to make tech better. Projects like Mastodon and others taking on big tech are great examples of that but, guess what, the people developing those projects have their own issues and that’s fine.
Apple works for me. I’m going to stop trying to change that with alternatives that, in the end, really aren’t any “better” overall. I’m going to stop questioning others for similar choices to do what they need to do.
Where there is a clear ethical alternative I will support that and I’ll continue to boycott truly abusive tech (you won’t see me back on Twitter, for example) but that is a fundamentally different level of tech than the raw tools we need to start with.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you. What does this all mean? Let’s stop worrying about the fundamental tools we need to build ethical tech and lets instead start building the ethical tech that will actually make a difference together.
If you’re building a great WordPress plugin or a new web application or anything else that empowers people it’s time for the rest of us to support that instead of shitting all over it because what you build it with has a different set of issues than what I would build with. This is one small step we can take to building better tech overall.