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I have a burning need to know stuff and I love asking awkward questions.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Thinking About: Being Connected

I am not exactly a Luddite. In fact I’m a great admirer of technology and all that it can do for us. It’s part of the reason why I love SF so much. I use a computer every day at work and spend a good few hours every evening on-line in one way or another. I use e-mail and text messages multiple times a day and, obviously, Blog on a regular basis too – but there is one aspect of all this that I simply do not understand: the need to be constantly connected.

You see them everywhere – walking along looking at the floor or, on closer inspection, looking at their smart phones twitching their thumbs, swiping their fingers across tiny screens (though getting ever larger it seems), quickly typing out messages on miniature qwerty keyboards and, from time to time, making actual phone calls. There is an almost drugged quality about these people, completely oblivious to the outside world, mesmerised by the small screen in front of them. Are they deep in contemplation? Are they discovering the secrets of the universe with rapt attention? No, they’re updating their Facebook status or checking ‘friends’ comments on their own Facebook page, following Twitter feeds or watching videos of stupid people caught on camera doing stupid things. To me at least the question springs to mind: Why? When did we develop the need, the desire, to know on a minute by minute basis what other people we have never met, and probably never will meet, are doing? When did we develop the desire, the need, to tell the world our every waking thought or what is happening to us right this second no matter how trivial or irrelevant? Do you really need to know what I had for breakfast this morning or my thoughts and opinions on the situation in the Ukraine? Do I need to know what you had for dinner last night or your thoughts and opinions on the winner of last nights X-Factor? Since when did any of this matter enough that I need to know about it right this second? Answer: it didn’t. If you are my actual friend, rather than an ersatz Facebook version, it might come up in conversation or, if separated by any great distance, in a phone call or e-mail (or, god forbid, an actual letter). If it’s important information that needs to be told right this second you could always pick up a phone and talk or text someone – “Baby is fine. Decided on name: Penrose.” But do you really need to tell 200+ people that and then respond to their knee-jerk comments and their comments to your comments until the early hours of the morning? Do you need to have your phone constantly on charge every time you’re located in one spot for more than ten minutes to top up the battery just in case you can’t charge it in the next hour and miss that vital post about your friend’s third kitten who has a worrying cough? Do you really need to reach for your phone, charging next to your bed on the night stand, before you are either fully awake (or have said good morning to your partner) to check if anything has happened whilst unfortunately asleep always alive to the horrific possibility that you might have missed something important like a relationship breakup or a flat tire on the way to work.

Fortunately I am not, nor have I ever been, cursed with such an addiction. I do not feel the need to tell everyone everything about my life second by second (for one thing it’s just too dull to relate and frankly it’s none of your business) nor am I interested in the minutiae of people’s lives be they world known celebrities or even good friends. There is no need to be connected to the rest of the world 24/7 and I fail to understand why so many people feel that need. What do you get from it? What need is it fulfilling? Indeed is it fulfilling any need? If you were not connected for an hour, a day, or a whole week, what difference would it make to your lives? Would it be the end of the world or would you just find something else to do with your time? Could you live without Facebook? I can. It’s really, really easy……    

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