The Future of Social Tech -- Can a Virtual Reality Be a Virtuous Reality?

Technology is headed to incredible places. Is it taking human virtue with it?

Everyday new tech is being created and utilized to further advance our human race. We're creating a mission to Mars, we're developing A.I. and we're creating social campaigns that are saving lives and spreading global awareness around ever-evolving issues. It's one of the most interesting times to be alive. We're witnessing the innovation of the tech world create faster and more efficient ways for us to do things at an exponential rate. As a result, our behavior is changing as rapidly as our environment is. The hope is that the future of social tech will begin to change behavior for the betterment of society.

When was the last time you went a full day without connecting to the Internet in some way? Can't remember? Me either.

Having started multiple Internet companies, including my most recent Shout The Good, I've seen firsthand how technology can bring out the best in us. The obvious perk is the amount of time it can save us in our everyday tasks giving us opportunity for higher efficiency. It has also fostered global connection leading to higher awareness of social issues and empathy for the human race. Though, I've also seen many of its negative impacts.

Many technologies are created to be addictive. We're distracted and sometimes isolated within our online social networks. At the same time, we have an entire population of people interacting with one another, sometimes anonymously, who show no respect for one another. We have a cyber-bullying problem and internet-trolls -- people sending hateful and destructive messages with the safeguard of hiding behind a computer screen. We also have a generation growing up with technology performing a lot of the manual labor we trudged through to teach us work ethic. With a growing addiction to technology, I wondered:

Can better tech really help make better people? If it can, how will it do so?

To answer these questions I took into consideration three things:
  1. What kind of environment I want my daughters to grow up in.
  2. What lessons I have learned through my experience that I feel vital to pass along to future generation.
  3. How both of these things can be translated through new technology.

An environment of humanity unified through recognizing the best in others.

Having two daughters growing up in a hyper-connected and fast-paced world, I want to be able to teach them about what truly matters.

Society spends hours on end networking, shopping, dating, playing video games, and doing research in almost every aspect of our lives online - an average of 11 hours per day according to a Neilson Report.

We often times forget to look up and appreciate the moment we're in and the people we are with. I want the future generations to keep their self-awareness despite being checked in to the lives of so many others on Social Media. I want the future generations to care about social awareness and serving one another despite the hateful and negative content that exists on every corner of the Internet.

I hope for an environment where people encourage each other to succeed without thoughts of jealousy. I hope for a world where we don't knock each other down to feel better about ourselves, but instead lift each other up to do so. I hope for a society that is forgiving and understanding of the faults in others. And, I've learned that by sharing our light with others, we lose nothing and add everything to the benefit of society. This is the environment I hope new tech can help create.

A life of hardship has taught me how important it is to recognize human strength and cultivate it in oneself and in others for true success.

When I was 16, my brother and I left our parents and our home in Iran to flee religious persecution. After making it to Pakistan, I came to the U.S. as a refugee and was able to find the opportunity for a proper education and kick start my entrepreneurial journey. I've learned many lessons along the way, and they all revolve around developing quality character and using our strengths to serve others - both of which feed each other.

There are virtues that I find incredibly important to teach to my children: honesty, integrity, compassion, hard work, forgiveness, generosity, and so many more. I think of how I was able to learn the true importance and meaning of these virtues. It was by self-reflection on my experiences to understand what my strengths and weaknesses were - what I could use to increase opportunity and what I could work on. That was combined with encouragement from family, peers, and loved ones. I wondered if we could use technology to ensure that striving for virtuous qualities were held higher on one's priority list than how we appear on our social media pages. I wanted to shift the focus from a superficial appearance to a deeper level of connection with one another, because it is in those deeper connections that I've found a lasting feeling of happiness and success.

Our interactions with one another shape us more than we realize. What if seeing the good in others became addictive?

Running multiple companies has taught me a lot. One of the big lessons was how much interpersonal communication deeply affects the outcome of our lives. As Tony Robbins has put it:

"Communication is power. Those who have mastered its effective use can change their experience of the world, and the world's experience of them." - Tony Robbins

What we say and do online sends ripple effects beyond our imagination. As soon as we hit "post" we are influencing a multitude of people. These actions are also permanent.

Our language will define our lives. Our engagement with one another is how we cultivate deeper relationships and healthier connections with one another, or how we destroy them.

So what if the addiction we have with online browsing, checking our Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram feeds could be turned into an addiction to seeing the best in others and praising them for it? Could, in this case, better technology help to create better people?

That is the hope. In a world of chaos and online negativity, we need an equal force for conscious living that's just as accessible as anything else in our lives -- right in our pocket.

"One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task." -- Abdu'l Baha