When people ask what I do and we begin the conversation about website technology-- people usually do one of three things:
- contract and get fearful
- become lost or overwhelmed
- glaze over and go to their happy place.
I get it. This shit is dense and it can be a foreign language. Hell, I got a C- in computer science in college in the mid 90s and almost failed a class because I refused to login to this new thing called "email" to get my homework assignments.
I am an accidental tech geek for sure-- almost as much as I am an accidental entrepreneur.
But here's the thing. Throughout our recorded history, those who control the words and the means of communication control their own destinies and the fates of the masses.
And, like it or not, we live in a world where a majority of our societal communications happen in the digital space. When you understand how to publish your thoughts online-- to share with your tribe, your community or the general public-- your thoughts come to life.
And the people who need your wisdom, expertise and perspective are served by your publication. Understanding technology is at the core of our ability to practice our free speech in this modern world.
But one thing that understanding technology truly does is eliminate an unknown fear that dwells in many of us.
We fear that which we do not know or understand. And let me just tell you, there's a massive fear associated with the actual inner workings of our digital technology and how it tracks us.
Many of us are willingly blind to the depth at which our devices track and control us. It's so subtle that we are often totally unaware until a big story like Edward Snowden breaks or a TV show like Mr. Robot shows us what's really going on in the digital hacking space.
We remain ignorant until we're directly impacted-- like when our credit card statements begin to show fraudulent activity and we have to verify our identity to the big banks.
Did you know that Facebook gets hacked 600K times a day!! Not a year-- a day! Think of all of your vital, private, personal information being pilfered by organized crime syndicates each and every day.
Yea, that's real. (check out Future Crimes to learn more)
I'm always blown away at how willingly clueless people are about the actual inner workings of social networking and how big data is created, transferred, intercepted and stored. And when people do talk about it-- they dismiss the actual problem as something that's out of their control and concede to the realities of living in the modern world.
Do you realize that every free app or social platform you use turns you into the product? It's never "free" to use. The data you create, your likes, tweets, preferences, friends, relationships, images, etc. are all mined and sold to marketing companies and corporations to sell you shit. That's it. You are the product-- not the platform. That's why it's free-- so you'll create data that others can sell for a high profit.
Or, if I'm able to really tell people just how pervasive surveillance technology is and how easy it is for hackers or the government to access every aspect of a person's life and spy on us, I'm met with an overwhelming fear and contraction.
I feel slightly guilty in that moment, but at the same time, I feel the need to truly show people what's up. I feel a duty to follow the issues surrounding internet privacy and free speech so that I can translate it for others.
And while I know just how pervasive the problem is and that actually protecting myself completely would require a complete disengagement from modern society, I do sleep better knowing that I can control the amount of access to my information outsiders have access to--or I can at least make it harder so they'll move on to the next easier target. I know how it works-- in theory and one day I hope to understand it in application.
But I know enough to be mindful. I know where my vulnerabilities are and I know when I'm being played by the algorithms.
I know-- and that knowledge gives me power. And maybe not a lot of power-- but it gives me a feeling of strength and removes the feelings of helplessness that occur when something so invisible can reach into your life and wreak havoc.
I sleep better because I understand technology-- both how to use it to amplify my voice and how to protect myself from the invisible thread that ties us all to the powers that be.
And I truly believe that we would all feel better about our engagements with digital technology if we took a moment to try and understand how some of it works.
Embrace your inner-geek and just take a few moments to read some articles about the modern digital world we live within. You owe it to yourself to take back a little power from the “man”!