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One year of Techno Sapiens
Thank you, thank you, thank you
We’re celebrating one year of Techno Sapiens this week. So please, break out the champagne, dance to the Techno Sapiens theme song1, and forward this along to a friend who might enjoy it. Cheers!
I started Techno Sapiens one year ago, while I was on maternity leave.
After a decade of grad school and various academic jobs, the birth of our son ushered in an abrupt stillness. Not, of course, in the sense of actual quiet—there was plenty of screaming (the baby’s) and crying (mine)—but of seemingly stalled forward motion. In that liminal space of new parenthood, where each moment feels both fleeting and never-ending, I found myself thinking about how I spend my time. Writing, I decided, needed to be part of it. If I didn’t start now, I worried I’d never get around to it.
I’ve always loved writing, and I’d toyed with the idea of doing it before. Not academic writing—I’d done plenty of that, with research papers and grant applications and literature reviews—but writing that was, you know, fun. I loved the idea of sharing what I was learning and experiencing, but I’d never gone through with it. I’d write in fits and starts, composing a paragraph and staring at it before doubts would creep in. I’ll never be able to find the time to do this. I’d think. What would I even do with it? And most of all, Who would read it? What would they think?
But something about that time as a new parent, when things that had once been distant ideas became sudden, red-faced, diaper-wearing realities, made me decide to go for it.
I started my Substack in November 20212 , and suddenly, everything changed. Well, not really. After brainstorming names for a few weeks, I landed (for unknown reasons) on Medium Well. My husband gently suggested it reminded him of cooked meat. I went with Techno Sapiens instead.
What did happen suddenly is that I fell back in love with writing. It filled a creative void I hadn’t realized was there. I was waking up early to write. I was devouring books on writing. I was giggling to myself over footnotes. I was brainstorming ideas while running, leaving indecipherable, gasping voice memos on my phone about niche psychology topics. I was thinking about my research, and my parenting, in new ways.
I knew, though, that writing online is inherently a bidirectional endeavor. It’s a two-way street. I write, others read (and comment). This is the premise of the digital world we know so well: content creation and consumption, often at the same time.
I was excited to share the work I loved creating. But with public sharing comes public opinion. Public feedback. That thorny question of an audience. Who would read Techno Sapiens? Would anyone read it? And more importantly, what would they think? Would my academic colleagues find the writing too casual, too personal? Would my friends find it too academic, too boring? It was equal parts exciting and scary, vulnerable and gratifying.
Like most people, I have a complicated relationship with this digital two-way street.
One year later, writing Techno Sapiens is still one of the best things I’ve ever done. I still get excited over new ideas and niche psychology topics. I wake up early to write for an hour everyday3. I’ve published at least one a week, every week, since that very first post. I’m convinced that I’m a better parent and researcher, and a happier person, because of it.
Of course, I still worry sometimes. As our numbers grow, I feel pressure to create something worth reading for all of you. I worry about sharing too much, or too little. I worry about whether my posts are too short (rarely), too long (usually), too academic, or too personal. I worry the occasional footnote gets too weird.
But as it turns out, the thing I was most worried about—the feedback, the opinions, the response from readers like you—has been the best part of it all. The emails from fellow parents trying to navigate their own screen time. The comments from fellow psychologists wondering about the research on video games. The strangers I meet who tell me they subscribe—still a thing I cannot wrap my head around—and then offer their own stories about baby gates, or mental health TikTok, or, of course, Lindsay Lohan’s 2022 film Falling for Christmas.
This little corner of the Internet is a two-way—or, sometimes, three- or four- or thousands-way—street, and that’s what makes it so special. To know that people are actually reading the things I write, and even more, sometimes finding them helpful, interesting, or entertaining, is indescribable.
You, techno sapiens, are the reason this newsletter is possible. And I’m so grateful to you all for allowing me to do the thing I love.
I don’t have quite the right words to describe this little digital space we’ve created. What I do know is that we’re a group of people, gathering here on the Internet, to write and read and share and listen. To keep learning how to be parents, researchers, educators, therapists—humans—in the digital world. To explore what it means to live a good life in the face of technology, and to laugh a little bit along the way.
Thanks for being here, techno sapiens. Here’s to Year Two.
A quick survey
What did you think of this week’s Techno Sapiens? Your feedback helps me make this better. Thanks!
We do not have a theme song. Very open to a musically-inclined sapien composing one, though.
My initial readership consisted mostly of my family which, for someone whose immediate family’s Thanksgiving table numbers in the high teens, was not bad! My siblings (I’m one of six) seem to be somewhat split on who actually reads Techno Sapiens now. Some read it religiously (I love these ones the most, obviously). Others open it every week, but have admitted they skip directly to the footnotes. And at least one tells me they once came across it on LinkedIn, and remind them what it’s called again?
Okay, not every single day, but I do try very hard to write for at least an hour, most days. On weekends (Sunday nights in particular), it’s more than an hour. I rarely know the topic I’ll post about at the beginning of the week. As a result, the first few days of the week are usually spent reading, researching, thinking, and scanning a list of 100+ ideas I’ve jotted down, of which I’ll eventually choose none. Then, I’ll come up with a topic and, with each passing day, write about it with the increasing freneticism that only a self-imposed Monday 5:30am ET deadline can inspire. Finally, I send it to my copy editor, who also happens to be my husband and, luckily for me, Techno Sapiens’ biggest supporter.