Making (and keeping) New Year’s resolutions is always a fraught affair. Every year, dozens of websites and magazines offer tips on how to keep the ones you make.
Technology companies eagerly serve up a buffet of gadgets and self-trackers that promise to keep you honest about that resolution to walk more, eat less, or otherwise improve yourself. Unfortunately, recent research has shown that these gadgets are more likely to create false hope than healthier users—that’s not an expression; researchers actually called the behavior of self-trackers “false hope syndrome.” As New York magazine described:
“As Alexandra Samuel argued in a recent column on JSTOR Daily, the digital tools that help us stick to our resolutions—Fitbits, online food diaries, even posting your goal on Facebook for an extra dose of accountability—can also backfire, lulling us into a false sense of security over how attainable those goals really are. The reason: The promises of motivation and ease that these tools provide can make us more susceptible to something called “false hope syndrome,” a term coined by psychologists Janet Polivy and C. Peter Herman in 2000 to describe the unreasonably high expectations we have for our own ability to change.”
Which is why it might be a good idea to take the pronouncements of self-appointed Silicon Valley gurus with a grain of salt this year. Take Facebook founder and hoodie-wearing social media overlord Mark Zuckerberg. Every year he gifts us with his list of resolutions—oh, I’m sorry, he calls them “challenges”—evidently assuming we’ll find his life choices inspiring (even as we find his technology more frustrating and privacy-violating).
This year, Zuckerberg has vowed to visit every state in the U.S. he hasn’t yet been to, about thirty in total. He said:
“My trips this year will take different forms—road trips with Priscilla, stops in small towns and universities, visits to our offices across the country, meetings with teachers and scientists, and trips to fun places you recommend along the way.”
As The Guardian reported, he went on to wax philosophical about the divisions the country now faces: “For decades, technology and globalization have made us more productive and connected. This has created many benefits, but for a lot of people it has also made life more challenging. This has contributed to a greater sense of division than I have felt in my lifetime. We need to find a way to change the game so it works for everyone.”
How thoughtful of Zuckerberg to announce his “Technology’s Losers 2017 Tour” tour to inspire the rest of us!
As one commentator noted, Zuckerberg’s challenge sounds an awful lot like a politician testing the waters for a run for national office. Then again, why would someone like Zuck ever bother with the messiness of democracy? He’s got more power over public opinion (and more opportunities to disseminate fake news) than most elected officials, and without that pesky constitutional oversight and accountability to deal with! (Byzantine Terms of Service agreements are much easier vehicles for compelling people to turn over their rights than democratically-negotiated legislation is). And even if he does listen to people outside Silicon Valley, his past behavior and statements about the kind of world he wants us all to live in don’t inspire confidence that his solutions will make the world a better place. (On the contrary, it will make it a more heavily surveilled and profitable place—for Facebook).
So go forth and enjoy your thirty states tour, Mr. Zuckerberg. But next year, consider adopting a new challenge, both for yourself and for your company: Humility.