Burned-out tech workers can't connect to others
SAN FRANCISCO — Internet media magnate Arianna Huffington exhorted thousands of workers in the Internet-based software industry last week to not let their own lives be controlled by technology.
Tech companies themselves should lead the fight against "burnout" — including the kind caused by mobile work devices — and encourage them to do good for the industry's own good, Huffington urged.
"Technology has to become our slave, not our master," she told the keynote crowd at Dreamforce 14, the Salesforce.com user conference that drew 150,000 salespeople, engineers and other software workers here.
Huffington recounted her own burnout that led to a physical collapse, before she rebounded to found an online media news site that was acquired by AOL in 2011 for $315 million, mostly in cash.
"We have the power to change things," she says. "We can get away from the collective delusion that burnout is the price of success."
Huffington echoed the thoughts of Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff in urging tech workers and executives to more philanthropy and better self-care, by "not just doing well but being well."
"Benioff said philanthropy is the best drug he's ever taken," she said.
Of her fellow keynote figures (musician Neil Young, Benioff and spiritual guru Eckhart Tolle), she said: "The four of us haven't been together since Woodstock."
Huffington then previewed Tolle's remarks in saying that people are most effective when they're being true at work to their inner selves.
"People don't touch an audience if they're not in touch with themselves," said Tolle, who joined Huffington onstage at the city's Moscone Center for a seated interview after her keynote speech.
Tolle ranged further, saying social media has had a multiplying effect on a human urge that dates back to long before Facebook came along.
Since we first communicated, we've been telling others fictionalized accounts of our own lives.
"People construct an image of themselves composed of stories, they live through a self-image," Tolle says.
Yet this intellectual construct is "a delusion," a distracting and exhausting roadblock to inner peace, he said, before throwing the audience a curve:
"Facebook can magnify this delusion," he said. "It can be very seductive."
Meditation and other forms of mental focus may offer a healthier, alternative path.
"Eighty percent of thinking is unnecessary; it just gets in the way of enjoying your life," said Tolle.