Mar 15, 2022Liked by Addison Del Mastro

I think "friction" is such a good metaphor for having a bit of resistance in our interactions with technology, because it captures a lot of the nuance around the issue. In physical life, we tend to think of friction as bad, but if you stop and examine it it's really only an issue when it's unexpected or otherwise "incorrect" friction: two gears grinding against each other because one is out of alignment, etc. But much of what we do *requires* friction to work at all, it's just generally seamless because it's all been carefully designed to put the friction where it's needed and to keep everything else smooth.

I guess the one place where the metaphor does kind of break down is that in the physical world, the understanding of friction is the domain of the engineer and physicist: there's pretty much a "correct" level of friction that our brake pads need for the car to be safe and effective to operate. But for human interaction with digital technology, it's a much more personal decision, and that's kind of the problem with a lot of mass social technologies. Their incentive is to drive "engagement" based on mass aggregate metrics, which ends up purging almost any source of friction, even ones that most users would want. This leads to many people having to self-impose their friction in order to have a healthier interaction with the system, but this can be tough to maintain. I try to abide by Alan Jacobs' "Take a 5 minute walk before responding" rule, but man if it isn't hard not to just snap a quick tweet back before walking away....

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