Is there a difference between connectivity dependency or addiction and is it a good or bad thing?
To set the scene, this piece has been inspired by the fact that I’m 7000 miles away from home, I’m 7 hours ahead of UK time, am sitting in ‘paradise’ and like everyone around me am addicted to a little screen in front of my face.
Without question the biggest development of my lifetime has been the Internet and how our working and personal lives have come to revolve around it without our really realising.
It’s only 15 years ago that I remember first trailing a wire all the way up my Mum and Dad’s stairs from the BT phone socket to my bedroom to connect my huge desktop to this strange unknown entity called the Internet. Followed by 15 minutes of me listening to it screech whilst it slowly downloaded some pictures of boobs.
Fast forward 15 years and now work life grinds to a halt if the “Internet is down,” and we feel cut off from the world if we haven’t got a device to connect us to social media for more than a few hours.
The question I suppose I’m trying to figure out then, is this connectivity a good or a bad thing?
I’m not really sure the answer is as simple as good or bad, or if, alternatively, it’s important to, like anything in life, use it sensibly, in moderation and without forgetting what’s really important; enjoying the moment, together.
My wife would certainly question if I live in the moment as I endlessly snap away with my iPhone or camera or often both. The reason I do this? I’m torn between twin desires. I want to capture the perfect moment so that in years to come my wife and I can look back on it fondly as we flip through old photos. I also want to capture a great photo I can share on Facebook so I can interact with my ‘mates’.
I say ‘mates,’ some of them are genuine friends and others are people I knew at school 20 years ago and accepted their friend request once upon a time but wouldn’t dream of speaking to them if I bumped into them in the street. Nonetheless these internet friends feel like part of my everyday life. (I’m Tempted to use a winking face here as common language for – I’ve just cracked a joke please laugh).
So, to carry on with the holiday observations that inspired this piece…
I’m sitting in stunning surroundings, on a golden beach, 20m from the sea in 30 degree heat and as I look around something that unites everyone here is some sort of device that connects us to the hotel wi-fi, even if it’s a Kindle Fire they claim is to prevent them bringing heavy books abroad.
My first thought is how sad it is that everyone is doing this rather than enjoying what is right in front of them, and I include myself in that list.
However, is it sad, is it necessity, is it obsession or is it enjoyment? I truly believe now that the answer is it’s all of them.
I have to say it’s sad that my first thought of the day is to click the mail button to check what people 7 hours behind me have been up to whilst I have been asleep, but then conversely on the flip side, being a small business owner I feel it necessary to keep a hand in what’s been going on.
Clearly the world won’t end if I don’t check, or indeed the business won’t go bust in the 3 weeks that I’m away, but the fact is, that at the pace working life now moves, I personally find it easier to keep on top of things as I go along, rather than lose 2 days when I return trying to catch up.
There is, however, an enjoyment factor to this dependency on connectivity. Call me sad and some may call me a show off but I do enjoy sharing these experiences on social media for other people to stay connected with what the wife and I are doing. Do people care though? Probably 90% of my connections don’t and just think ‘flash bastard.’ For the other 10% though, which includes my parents, they absolutely love it.
Another observation is the impact connectivity is having on family life. As I sit back in the hotel bar enjoying a night cap, I basically earwigged the conversation of a young English family consisting of Mum and Dad (late 30s early 40s) 2 kids aged 15-18 and a tiny baby.
Pretty much the entire 30 minutes I spent earwigging, whilst occasionally being distracted by the game of cards with my wife, their conversation centred entirely around who they were all connected to on Whatsapp and berating anyone they knew that they thought looked ridiculous in their Whatsapp profile pictures. The screams of delight when they found that the young girls driving instructor had an ‘awful’ photo were deafening.
Coming back to the question; is this a good or bad thing? It’s tempting to instantly jump to the conclusion that it’s a bad thing that 4 out of the 5 all had a tiny screen in front of them, and if infants could use them I’m pretty sure it would have been 5 out of 5.
However, the fact remains an entire family were all sitting together, enjoying each other’s company and having a laugh, all facilitated by being connected to the internet and that can only be a good thing (if we overlook the mild cyber bullying).
The conclusion has to be that whether we think it good or bad this is just the way life is now. Live has evolved so dramatically over the last few years that our dependence on being connected to the Internet is now just part of everyday life.
For businesses and a marketing business like Outsmart is it a good or a bad thing? Whilst people will argue both sides of the coin the fact remains our global economy runs on the Internet and its growth and pace is dictated by this Internet.
My overriding conclusion is that this ever increasing dependency and obsession with connectivity will continue to bring the worlds of work and pleasure ever closer together and therefore the real important factor is to remember to do what’s important and not forget that real life will always be measured by the connections we have face to face, and not through a screen! However, connection through a device is here to stay and who knows where it might take us, we might even have wi-fi on our hover boards next!