More than a shift, a recognition of boundaries and responsibilities ricochets through the news. “Facebook Conceded It Might Make You Feel Bad. Here’s How to Interpret That.” states a New York Times article. In the Wall Street Journal, another headline suggests “Silicon Valley Reconsiders the iPhone Era It Created.” Personal responsibility pairs with corporate responsibility. Where does responsibility fall (or fall down) between a company and an individual?

An Automobile Example

responsibilityThink about automobiles. Today, we have airbags in the dashboard, steering wheel, and doors. We also have seat belts across our body and waist. Autos did not begin this way. When I was a baby, there were no child seats and, even if there were, there would be nothing to strap them in with – no seat belts. Although an early seat belt was invented in the late 1800s, it was not until the late 1950s that they began to appear in consumer’s cars.

By 1963, twenty-three states had enacted legislation that required seat belts in the front row. In 1968, the Federal government enacted a law requiring all vehicles (except buses) have seat belts. Most of the enforcement is left to the states; however, if they want Federal highway funding, then they must have primary seat belt laws.

In reviewing automobile safety, an industry evolved.

  • No automobile seat safety initially to giving individuals an option
  • Moving from an individual choice to requiring companies to having seat belts included
  • Adding to a company requirement, laws enforcing seat belt compliance on individuals

A mix of personal responsibility and corporate responsibility emerges.

Even with this evolution, the safety question still resides with the individual. From the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “More than half (range: 52%-59%) of teens (13-19 years) and adults aged 20-44 years who died in crashes in 2015 were unrestrained at the time of the crash.” Personal responsibility supersedes other forms of responsibility.

Automobile Seat Belt Relevance to Digital Responsibility

What’s the connection? The connection is not direct but one of responsibility shifts with time. With auto seat belt safety, an evolution occurred through initial options to greater corporate responsibility to Federal and State laws to individual responsibility and choice. The connection is about technology changes and how we learn, adapt, and exercise thoughtful restraint and safety.

The connection is about technology changes and how we learn, adapt, and exercise thoughtful restraint and safety.


New products and technology create freedom for people to move around unfettered, to exchange ideas and expressions more widely, and to become more connected to diverse people in more places. As the technology takes hold, we may go overboard with it to the point of hurting ourselves and others. We begin to adopt precautions, and other entities begin to exhibit more responsibility. The government, at times, may play a role, too.

The ultimate goal is to create a safer environment while giving individuals freedom and expecting responsibility.

Digital Devices and Platforms: Personal Responsibility, Corporate Responsibility, or Both?

Many articles have been written about too much digital phone time and too much social media time. Apps appear to help us better manage our time and let us know when we are spending too much time peering into small screens and getting caught up in infinite scrolls. New organizations, like Time Well Spent, spring up with former technology professionals sounding the alarm and offering better practices. An ecosystem springs to help us find accountability within our freedom and responsibility.

More than this, responsibility centers with companies and individuals. While past Facebook and Google employees sound the alarm, Mark Zuckerberg vows to “fix” Facebook, and prominent Apple investors call on the company to help parents in lowering their kids addiction to their phones.

Raising the concerns and the calls to actions are important. The reality is that we need a mix of corporate and individual responsibility to use our new technology advances in a better human way. We need social cause organizations to help by doing the research and identifying mindful practices.

Responsibility is a community requirement. With this collaborative responsibility, we will create Smarter Cities and Smarter Citizens. Taking on our responsibility in a conscientious way will provide smarter platforms in how we do our work, live our lives, and create better relationships.

Intertwine Personal Responsibility with Corporate and Community

Returning to the key question – Where does responsibility fall (or fall down) between a company and an individual?

  • Without strong personal responsibility, corporate and community responsibility set the direction but becomes ineffective.
  • Without strong corporate and community responsibility, personal responsibility fades, blaming others or looking the other way.
  • Meaningful responsibility requires a collaborative effort within society, just as accountability does.

What is the right mix of responsibility?


Photo by Ross Findon on Unsplash
Photo by Alex Kotliarskyi on Unsplash


Technology and innovations change lives. How we adapt depends on a mix of personal responsibility and corporate responsibility. The truth: It is evolutionary responsibility.