Always Turned On

Things are getting really weird. I have a female friend that goes to bed with an electronic device every night. Her husband is getting fed up and claims it’s ruining their sex life. Her response is that she’s in meetings all day and needs to take a laptop to bed to catch-up with her emails. This is a bit extreme but I know of lots of other people that hardly ever switch off.

You can see this first hand when passengers switch their mobile phones back on the minute their plane lands. What’s quite so important that it can’t wait ten minutes until they are inside the terminal building I have no idea. Perhaps it’s yet another example of how people feel insecure if they are not always available or constantly connected.

Something is going on here. Soon after the millennium (probably the Tuesday around 7.08am) we collectively decided to redefine the concept of freedom to include notions of speed and wireless connectivity. It’s certainly a seductive idea.

We are now free to work anywhere we want. We can do it on aeroplanes at 39,000 feet, in the back of the car, in bed or on the kitchen table. Should children be exposed to their parents doing this? Most people will say, “what’s the harm?” but I am worried about the signals these devices are sending out. Surely what people are saying is that I am more interested in being alone with my digital network than being with you?

The desire to be connected isn’t limited to work either. Twitter, as some people will know, is a micro-blogging service that allows people to answer the question “What are you doing?” by sending regular up-to-the-minute newsflashes of their daily existence to chosen friends. Messages are limited to 140 characters and, judging by most of the messages I’ve seen, most users are limited to an IQ of 110. (Actually that’s not true. Twitter seems to be the domain of uber-geeks with very high IQs but I couldn’t resist saying that).

It’s a sort of stream of consciousness thing that results in babblings about being “thirsty” or “going to lunch”. In theory Twitter is a fun way to keep in touch but I am starting to wonder whether it’s possible to be too in touch.

For example, I have a friend that’s a ‘Twit’. If I wanted to I could sign up and find out that he was “eating vegemite toast” at 7.08pm” or that “I’m in bed now” at 12.04am. But I don’t need to know this.

Back in the old days people kept certain types of information to themselves. I think it was called either privacy or security. Nowadays such digital exhibitionism is practically compulsory. Even the next President of the United States is on Twitter (“Just saw Hillary, she has a gun”?).

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