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Sunday, 1 January 2012

Some life-affirming thoughts for a tech New Year

by Chris Matyszczyk

(Credit: CC KhE/Flickr)
Viewing the tech world, as I do, largely from the fringes, I sometimes wonder just how seriously it takes itself.

Make a joke about Apple and invective will descend on you. Make a joke about Google+ and expect to be told to "eat a large bowl of raw d***"-- oh, and to be followed by a lot more people on Google+.

The New Year will, no doubt, see more intensity surrounding tech companies, tech products, and tech personalities.

Some people will work beyond their physical and mental capacities. Some people will believe that killing Google, Apple, Facebook is everything that exists in life. Some people will lose perspective entirely about what's important and what is mere group-speak.

So to celebrate the New Year, here are the words of a palliative-care nurse who's spent much of her life listening to people on their deathbeds. These truths were first published on the Arise India forum but were then republished by the extraordinary writer Kelly Oxford.

These, then, are what this nurse saw as the Top Five Regrets of the Dying. Perhaps they might seem obvious, perhaps not. But their raw reality becomes evident when, as the nurse says, people realized they were experiencing their last few days on Earth.

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me. This was, apparently, the most common regret. In tech terms, think of everything that is expected of people. Many of those who leave college believe that tech is the only place worth working these days. They don't always consider whether they'll enjoy it or not. Most people in the world are now being told that if they're not on a social network, they don't exist. So they spend hours every day peering into screens. The life that is true to you isn't always easy to identify, never mind to live.

2. I wish I didn't work so hard. Self-evident, perhaps. But surely still something worth thinking about in a world in which personal insecurity is now being traded as if it were just another commodity. We're scared, so we work harder. The harder we work, the more scared we become that this is all there is and all there ever will be.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings. The nurse talks about how people developed illnesses that she believes were directly related to the "bitterness and resentment" they felt as a result of living a false life. In tech terms, how many people truly believe they are creating a new tomorrow? And how many feel they are staring into their screens in order to line someone else's pocket and ego, without ever themselves being appreciated for what they do and who they are?

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends. Yes, these people never had Facebook. But are those Facebook friends really your friends? Have you let go of your real friends because you're too busy with your Facebook friends? As the nurse puts it: "It is all comes down to love and relationships in the end. That is all that remains in the final weeks, love and relationships." Which would mean real relationships.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier. "When you are on your deathbed, what others think of you is a long way from your mind," says the nurse. And yet here we are in the real, techified life, where what others think of us matters more than ever. If someone says something bad about us on the Web (something that is so very, very easy and therefore likely), we are mortified--more so, because the bad words will always live in some electronic physical existence. The bad words will never go away because we can find them. Ergo, so can everyone else. Yet what this nurse tells us is that the opinions of others matter far, far less than we might think at the time.

Perhaps this seems a somber way to wish everyone a Happy New Year. But the one thing we have that those of whom the nurse writes don't is time. Here's looking forward to a very happy 2012 and, hopefully, one that is very true to each of our individual selves.

Chris Matyszczyk
Chris Matyszczyk is an award-winning creative director who advises major corporations on content creation and marketing. He brings an irreverent, sarcastic, and sometimes ironic voice to the tech world. He is a member of the CNET Blog Network and is not an employee of CNET.

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