Riding the tech roller coaster back up (a little)
Tech news is pretty depressing these days, isn’t it?
Back when I first started writing about technology, the industry was full of wide-eyed optimism about the brave new world of social media and mobile apps. Every day brought an exciting new release from a startup or big tech firm, and it was fun to ride the wave and track how everything seemed to be getting better every day.
And then suddenly, tech journalism changed. Its enthusiasm waned as we saw a tide of awfulness descend on what we’d once found so exciting.
Gamergate; culture wars played out through social media hate campaigns; social media firms struggling to deal with abuse from individuals, groups and even nation states; almost daily disclosures of company security breaches; consumer hardware weaponised into botnets; the rise of toxic self-entitlement in Silicon Valley… the list goes on. The tech world suddenly seemed a whole lot less fun.
And the public’s appetite for tech news changed, too. Once you could get big traffic numbers writing about the coolest new app of the week, but now scandals, crimes and bad behaviour got the clicks.
From Uber employees to Elon Musk, the tech industry has asked in the past couple of years why the media spin is increasingly focused on the worst impacts of tech. Tech journalists will argue that they’re simply redressing the balance for years where far too much technology coverage was unquestioningly positive.
And maybe more bad news is a positive thing. Political news focuses on the bad because that’s where the scrutiny is needed. Journalists should be examining the worst behaviour of the tech world – that’s a public service. And ‘this app just got a minor new feature’ isn’t exciting news anymore, anyway.
But tech is doing a lot of good in the world, and the media doesn’t need to fawn over tech giants and startup culture to reflect that good news. Hopefully, tech journalism will soon feel it’s served its penance for past over-enthusiasm and stop being quite so depressing. Keep up the scrutiny, but bring back a bit more of the enthusiasm.