Last week I raised my head away from my laptop only to find people around me with heads down, tweeting, typing, laughing and scowling at monitors. The odd face returning to the real world for a short re-connect, then head back down again.
After a couple of decades working online I’ve recently spent sometime finding out what is happening to us in this digital cotton wool world some of us are living in. People are tweeting while driving, texting while in the middle of conversations and responding to social emails while at the cinema.
My guess is that the digital world has even crept into the bedroom allowing bad digital habits interfere with our pillow talk!
We are heading for a technology override, slowly replacing real human interaction.
The tipping point? The ‘super’ bit the superhighway – Broadband, Add in Facebook and iPhones and iPads and a Christmas stocking full of electronic wonders and behold, we now live in a 24 x 7, never switch off world.
I am concerned for the many tens of thousands of people that are surrendering to the ‘always on’ nature of online, creating nearvous, jittery empty emotional vessels, completely hotwired.
We have created a world of business executives screaming into virtual meetings via a Blackberry, teenagers exposing intimate detail than we care to know about on Facebook and hip 15 minute pop stars tweeting meaningless noise every 15 seconds.
Many people still find it baffling as to why so many others choose to regurgitate intimate details, so much of it the banal vanity, of their lives online for an army of strangers, and why those strangers are so keen to consume on social media sites,
We know the art of conversation started to die with the invention of the telephone. Walkmans carried us further into this self encased world we occupy today and email meant no turning back.
When I began my digital journey the childish excitement we could put away at the end of the day. Now we panic if we’re not online night and day, it reminds me part of the ‘Outer Limits’ TV show intro, ‘There is nothing wrong with your television set. Do not attempt to adjust the picture. We are controlling transmission’.
Its not that we are losing our humanity but that it’s becoming projected across things that lack a body, its less about new technologies than a state of mind in which we see our lives fulfilled in such things.
All we can hope for is social pressure will make emailing and texting unacceptable as smoking at the dinner table.
The Internet might have been around since the 60’s and we might think it that it is grown-up but the fact is, it has not. It will develop in many wondrous ways and it will be amazing.
We need to be on our guard, people such as Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, is quoted as saying that ‘privacy is dead’ which is the last thing we need to hear about our precious privacy and democratic institutions. Facebook might be free but my data isn’t.
These online brands are false gods, we let ourselves be washed over like a warm wave of self gratification, vulnerable to the indifference to technology but we continue to immerse ourselves within it.
It might be early days but reports are showing people with smart phones, deprived for a day are having withdrawal symptoms similar to caffeine addicts, raised heart rates, sweating and paranoia.
It’s not time to unplug and switch off, the Internet still continues to offer amazing access to information at our finger tips and the ability to help us to see and talk to friends and family on the other side of the globe and to be very creative and communal.
We need to take control of technology, understand real engagement and strike the right balance with our digital lives.
The last few years I’ve woken up from my digital haze and used the technology to get offline and closer to people. Using online community and group platforms such as http://www.eventility.co.uk demonstrates how you can develop a life beyond the monitor screen and engage with real flesh and blood people.
As Coke says, ‘it’s the real thing!’