We do not see life in the fully connected living as a crisis, especially not a health crisis, in particular, but we should. We think nothing of going to the gym and working out, but have not yet seemed to realize that our new connectedness has many discontents too.
Take ‘Generation Z’, the social group that has followed the millennials and which is, according to Goldman Sachs, ‘the first generation to be born in a post-internet world, truly device-in-hand.’
They can spend up to eighteen hours a day looking at their screens, more comfortable on social media than in many face-to-face settings. AI will soon give them computers that can ‘talk; to them. Is this socially healthy? It is socially here. Now.
The attention span of students is changing fundamentally; some universities are being built without lecture theaters, catering for shorter attention spans and embracing their new desire to continually share rather than soak up learning from “on high”.
Cinemas struggle to adhere to a ‘mobiles off” rule, as customers seem unable to stop fidgeting with their phones. If we think about the staggering Lancet study statistic that twenty per cent of the global population will soon be clinically obese, what might be the measurements for over-connectedness, bloated connection or discontented connection?
There is not nearly enough measurement or monitoring of the impact of the fully connected world because, until recently, we have been in love with, and in thrall to, its very existence and blind to its social consequences. Perhaps blind is not the right word. Distracted.
It is true that parents have worried about “sexting”, and that Wikileaks, and subsequently Edward Snowden, have expressed deep public unease about invasions of privacy.
But the culture of this new technology is addictive, and technology companies deliver us beautifully packaged, marketed products that have taken hold. Like cigarettes and sugar, such products can be highly addictive.
We may be only just be waking up to the disadvantages, but the commercial advantages are all too clear…For now everyone wants more. More information. More choice. More personalization. More platforms.
Our addictive appetites have been well and truly unleashed. And we are overfeeding them.
The above is an extract from Fully Connected: Surviving and Thriving in an Age of Overload by Julia Hobsbawm published by Bloomsbury