Primacy of Community

The great quote here is attributed to an HBS professor who deciphered ‘surveillance capitalism.’ Shoshana Zuboff’s writings are worthy of your time.

Here are my thoughts on tech and community life…

The world hardly knew each other before the Internet. You had to make the effort to understand your place according to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. After garnering a sense of belonging, safety, and social equity within one’s village, you ventured to other villages and befriended other tribes.

People connected for the sake of regional safety or to advance socially and gain notoriety through sheer brilliance. A civic culture promoting politics, academics, and business enabled the nonstop hustle and bustle which in turn, created leaders of diverse communities and global businesses.

While many people left their villages behind, many more chose to stay back. A physical connection was required to connect and make a difference. Today, only a click of the ’like’ button on social media is needed to go along with the fine art of texting and emoji-ing. Texting and Tweeting reduce the need to connect in-person ensuring distance in a super-passive way, all in the while, pretending to care. A lot of nobodies have become somebodies and a few brainless people boosted their way to the top. Social media rewards attention seekers, “dotards“, and tech entrepreneurs while ignoring the chroniclers of our age—authors and community leaders. Can anyone in America name their city council members in the township where they live? Admittedly, I wouldn’t be able to either. 😂

The primacy of community has become a lost art where one takes care of neighbors, elders, preserves culture, and protects their tribe when it becomes endangered by its surroundings. Neighbor-to-neighbor connections existed before the Internet, but this culture has given way to a virtual community life propped up by technology platforms such as NextDoor. How does the virtual world come back to life? There are civic experiments happening in places like Seattle which connect neighbors.

The internet has empowered many on their professional warpath using technology. Staying back in a global village seemed like such a career-limiting move. While billions of people have access to each other, it’s unclear what purpose is being served.

Overall, good things are happening. However, relationships are increasingly being defined according to business contracts and social status. My friends in the business world obsess over deal flow, and the stock market’s ebbs & flows. My techie friends ruminate over startup exits and failures. The saddest stories are from one-time valedictorians and brilliant change-makers who’ve become transactional bots just going through midlife crises. A few of my oldest connections stay dormant — on Linkedin.

I championed social impact events in 2019 and it was hard to get my tribe to show up. The events were successful and highlighted the need for meaningful work, not just a paycheck. Corporate social responsibility programs (aside from a few like Salesforce’s) remain underfunded because it’s not a priority in a Silicon Valley obsessed with billion$, not minions. The CEO is the ultimate arbiter of corporate philanthropy. Too many CEOs, VCs, and entrepreneurs do too little.

I don’t know what to do with all my connections. I prefer not to sell them shiny new objects, nor do I care to become a buyer of theirs. What I want — is to deepen my personal ties in 2020 and re-connect with my roots. I’m hoping for more coffee with real people while consuming less content from online mavens. What we’ve lost from all these technologies is that visceral dose of community which was spoon-fed to us during childhood. The community should never be relegated to the Internet only.

I’ll focus on my limited understanding of Maslow’s hierarchy by staying true to my cause: connecting good people and keeping this poetry alive.