Is the tech space facing a spiritual crisis?
It’s easy to feel lost when you view the world through the sterile glow of a computer screen.
Life is arguably easier thanks to the blistering pace of technological and scientific development. Despite this, people don’t seem to be any happier than before. Greater socioeconomic forces continue to affect overall life satisfaction. Physical and cognitive influences like disability, mental health, and the hedonic treadmill also play a major role. For whatever reason, it appears that technology doesn’t have all the answers to our very human problems. At least, not yet.
Tech is exhausting. The need to escape becomes especially strong if your life is a literal mess of cables and code. Burnout rates continue to be a cause for concern, but regular office hamsters (like us) often end up back on the wheel. It’s a messy cycle. Many of the tech industry’s biggest actors however, turn to a peculiar mix of spirituality as a means of coping with our increasingly tangled, post-internet world.
The phenomenon isn’t particularly new, and it’s definitely not confined to the tech scene. The Beatles did have that huge spiritual phase, after all. From the fringes of hippie counterculture, this new, eclectic spirituality transformed into a multi-billion dollar industry with hands in the pockets of normies everywhere. Yes, even your mom.
When you mash largely Western business culture together with a syncretic (read: ambiguous) sense of “Eastern” wisdom, some things get painfully lost in translation. Think JP Sears, or Gavin Belson from Silicon Valley—but with real-life people. How does this all play into tech’s crisis of faith, though?
A chakra short of alignment
Nerderati poster children like Apple’s Steve Jobs, Google’s Larry Page, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg all turned to Vipassana retreats for a well-needed shot at clarity. While the retreats may have had a positive effect on these industry titans, it’s also worth noting that these people are also relatively insulated from intersectional, working class hardship. This fundamental difference in perspective can be especially worrying when it involves people in considerable positions of power.
Earlier in the year, Twitter founder, Jack Dorsey dropped his own little nod to meditative retreats by tweeting about his silent “reset” in the wake of the platform’s stellar fourth quarter. Performative gestures aside, the tweet was posted following Twitter’s rightful (albeit lacking) crackdown on hateful speech and abuse—only to be bookended by a characteristically inflammatory tweet by a head of state. Twitter, the company, has stayed silent.
To be fair, this snafu might have ultimately been the result of a shareholder decision or a frustrating quirk of corporate bureaucracy. But in light of a brand-wide push, the incongruence between spiritual awakening, commitment to positive change, and apparent reaction could be hard to gloss over. These aspects just don’t align, and the social implications may affect people in less-than-favorable ways.
Just to be clear, this is not case for a specific social or economic argument. But we may need to acknowledge the friction between many “Eastern” perspectives, and the laissez-faire individualism that permeates many Western cultures. Co-opting bits and pieces of the former to fit the latter’s world view often results in an incomplete understanding that undermines the holism needed for this kind of spirituality to work in deep and lasting ways.
Happiness, peace, and clarity are all nice things, but we can’t just pick and choose from the McDonald’s enlightenment menu. These things should emanate from, and lead back to, a greater whole– encompassing our complex inner lives, outward relationships, and the threads that tie them all together. Any less would be missing the point.
Spirituality is ultimately a commitment to the process of being– striving for consistency in a world out-of-step.
If anything, it makes you feel a lot lighter.
The views and opinions reflected in this article do not represent YONDU INC. or any of its affiliates. The intent is not to argue in favor of an economic or political stance, but merely to highlight the importance of perspective and the value of consistency in both theory and practice.
YONDU INC. is a Philippine-based IT company that strives to provide happier technological experiences through high-quality computer software, communications services, and technical IT solutions.