Are life hacks like dating, dieting, and dancing well-thought strategies or only escapist fads? Are you the geek with consciousness about life or the guru looking for supplements to ‘heal’ the life? Certainly, hacking the way through life is important, rather than getting caught in its labyrinth. However, these hacks often risk life by providing quacky escapes from it. In his new book, Hacking Life, Joseph Reagle, professor at Northeastern University, suggests that employing clever shortcuts in life often comes at a cost.
Can you hack your way to a better life? an article by Khalida Sarwari, published a questionnaire with Joseph Reagle. Through the questionnaire, he explains the risks of life hacks and what is the suggested way to use them and make the most of it.
Reagle distinguishes between “nominal hacking” and “optimal hacking”, the black and white sides of life hacks. Nominal hacking is therapeutic, employed in restoring something to achieve a goal. It is sincere and strategic shortcuts, like those used by a geek, to make a better life. He explains this through an example of dieting hack, which is nominal when it is used to lose some weight according to the need, and not just to mimic an athletic or a super-skinny body. Optimal hacking means the opposite of the nominal hacking. As Reagle explains, optimal hacking is trying to push the edges of life so far as to risk one’s own self. These hacks are equivalent to the fads of gurus which are only supplements of real life. They do not make any meaning of life, but only derail the essence of living. Precisely, it is the maximum use of a particular life hack, enough to keep the real life at bay, almost forever. Dieting for a super-skinny body, according to Reagle, would be optimal hacking if it does not add to the meaning of life.
Reagle does not reject hacking life, but he warns against those hacks that compromise with life itself. As a solution, he emphasises to make a distinction between the nominal hacking and optimal hacking, or the sincere practice of a geek to make meaning of life, and fads of guru. In simple words, one needs to understand the difference between minimal hacking and maximal hacking to avoid the risk of succumbing to the quacky hacking at the risk of life. He also suggests certain ethics like asking oneself: Who does this hacking benefit, and if it is used by everyone, would the world be a better place?
Life hacks are instrumental methods to make life better, not to push it over the edge. To sum up, Reagel says,
“If your hacking is all about how to undercut your peers, or bend the rules so that you can cut in line, that would not be a better place”.