It's Zuck's World We're Just Living In It

Tech Execs Suddenly Wonder What They Hath Wrought

Naturally, the New York Times is ON IT.
 Tech Execs Suddenly Wonder What They Hath Wrought

I’m busy, kid. (Photo: flickr.com/fizzedi)

If you’re reading this on your phone, maybe you should put the phone down and spend some time with your family/girlfriend/dog. Kidding! Keep reading Betabeat, please. 

However, the New York Times reports that an increasing number of Silicon Valley execs are starting to wonder whether maybe they should be telling you to step away from the Internet every once in a while. After getting us all well and truly hooked, they’re now pondering whether maybe the implications of constant connection aren’t as wholly utopian as they expected.

You don’t say.

The star of the piece is Facebook’s Stuart Crabb, who is concerned that maybe you haven’t noticed you can’t so much as go to dinner with friends without checking your email every 15 minutes:

“If you put a frog in cold water and slowly turn up the heat, it’ll boil to death — it’s a nice analogy,” said Mr. Crabb, who oversees learning and development at Facebook. People “need to notice the effect that time online has on your performance and relationships.”

Ah, the old “boiled frog” analogy. Does anyone know if that actually works? (Please don’t test it.)

But Mr. Crabb isn’t the only one with worries. In fact, there’s a whole conference dedicated to the notion:

“We’re done with this honeymoon phase and now we’re in this phase that says, ‘Wow, what have we done?’ ” said Soren Gordhamer, who organizes Wisdom 2.0, an annual conference he started in 2010 about the pursuit of balance in the digital age. “It doesn’t mean what we’ve done is bad. There’s no blame. But there is a turning of the page.”

Well, not to be pedantic, but it’s more like: “There’s a tapping on the right-hand side of the screen to proceed to the next digital page.”

At any rate, we’ll grant Mr. Crabb that he’s at least self-aware enough to admit that this might be a little like the corner drug dealer suddenly evincing concern regarding the crack epidemic. He’s worried, and yet he continues to work at a company that just keeps pushing that dopamine:

He acknowledges that the message can run counter to Facebook’s business model, which encourages people to spend more time online. “I see the paradox,” he said.

Others downplay their role, saying they’re just giving the people what they want, meeting an unmet need, you know what I’m saying?

“They’d say: ‘Do we have any responsibility for the fact people are getting fat?’ Most people would say ‘no,’ ” said [Zynga cofounder Schiermeyer]. He added: “Given that we’re human, we already want dopamine.”

Man, pushers just won’t let a junky go free, will they?

Follow Kelly Faircloth on Twitter or via RSS. kfaircloth@observer.com