Recently, a prominent startup founder tweeted the following:
“Twitter seems very boring lately.
Actually, maybe it’s the whole tech industry—there’s less drama, fewer interesting characters to follow.”
It struck me as one of the oddest things I’ve ever seen posted on Twitter. It seems to be based on the idea that they only follow people talking about the tech industry. And if you only follow people posting about the tech industry on Twitter, of course it’s going to get fucking boring.
I follow my fair share of people posting about tech on Twitter, obviously. Speaking purely personally, none of them are the most interesting people in my feed. (The most interesting people tend to tweet about old sitcoms, or sex, or sex in old sitcoms.) But what I love reading about on Twitter is merely my personal preference. The bigger issue here is: if you only surround yourself with voices which talk about tech, do you even care about the things that tech is supposed to be enabling?
You don’t write a blogging platform for the sake of writing a blogging platform; you write it to help people tell a story. You don’t write a messaging app for the sake of writing a messaging app; you write it to help people communicate. You don’t work on self-driving cars for the sake of working on self-driving cars; you do it to improve people’s lives. Stories, communication, lives… which are not about tech. If you aren’t interested in all the non-tech stuff going on around you, why even care about tech itself in the first place? Tech isn’t there just for the sake of tech; it’s there to free people to do a million and one other things.
I work in television transmission. And of course, I have a natural interest in the technology behind what I do, and the processes involved. Hell, I still get excited about counting the news on air. But that can’t be the only thing I’m interested in. I have to care about the material I’m putting out too – what the intent behind it is, and what it means to viewers. Otherwise, it’s a) impossible to do my job properly, and b) extremely boring.
I have to care about the people and stories my work is enabling, as well as the fucking mixing desk. Even if the mixing desk is also really interesting.
If you work in tech, but all you’re surrounding yourself with is voices of people in the tech industry, you’re doing a terrible job. If you aren’t listening to the voices of the people who use your tech, then for a start you’re not getting enough context about life in order to help develop the most effective technology in the first place. But then, I have no clue why somebody would only want to listen to people talking about tech anyway. It’s such a tiny part of what life is.
Only following people who talk about tech on Twitter and then being surprised to find it boring is just the same as only following fishmongers on Twitter, and then getting bored at endless complaints about the wholesale price of cod. At best, it shows a terrible lack of self-awareness. And it does nothing to persuade people who already think the tech industry is far too insular for its own good to think otherwise.
Go and follow writers. Go and follow archivists. Go and follow sex workers. Go and follow people who are just using Twitter to do stupid jokes. Go and follow anyone who isn’t just talking about the latest Apple rumours and Android Nougat. The world may suddenly seem an awful lot less boring.