Do We Always Need to Be Connected?
We keep our mobile phones on all the time and check them regularly for texts or missed calls. For many of us, logging on to see if we’ve received email can be an almost obsessive ritual. Over the last decade we’ve become a society that’s addicted to being connected, always in touch and always available.
But why do we need this? It’s not that long ago, before the widespread use of email and mobiles, that we were quite content to be relatively unconnected; if you go back just one generation or so, many people didn’t even have landlines at home.
Is Business The Connection Culprit?The demands of business have grown greater and greater in recent years. Where a 9-5 working day was once the norm, with every weekend off and so many weeks’ holiday each year, now much of our lives centre around work, every day of the week.
In 2005 the average British worker put in 43.5 hours per week, the highest figure in Europe, and since then it might well have risen; plenty of people put in well over 60 hours a week, including time spent on the weekends working from home. More is expected of us by our employers and in turn we give more. To do that, we need input from others, which in turn means being connected to receive those texts, calls and emails wherever we might be.
The laptop, which was first adopted by businessmen, allowed the ability to work effectively and to be connected whilst travelling. Laptops are now almost ubiquitous, as are the places they can be used. Almost every hotel offers wireless Internet connectivity, and Wi-Fi hotspots are around all over the country and the world. You can have a coffee, a drink, or a meal and check what’s happening. There’s no escape, and maybe worse, no excuse to escape. When a project needs to be completed or a report back on a presentation, it can now be done almost instantly and there’s no putting it off until Monday.
Social ConnectivityWith the competition and speed of business, there’s a reason behind the need to be connected. For teens and the young there’s a reason, too, but a very different one – this time it’s social.
For many of them, their entire social lives revolve around their phones, instant messaging and social networking. So they spend a lot of time talking and texting on the phone, and checking sites and more on their computers, keeping up with friends who are mostly local, but might well range all over the world. They’ve come of age with this and they expect it in their lives – they’d be lost without it.
Phones that allow them to text, talk and use instant messaging are incredibly popular, as are ones that gives them full access to social networking sites. But they still need the larger multimedia facilities of the computer, too. An older generation might look on, a bit bemused, but that kind of need for permanent connectivity is here to stay, and might even become wider.
The simple answer, of course, is that we really don’t always need to be connected. Our lives would keep going on well without it, and the work would still all be done. But as the pace of life has increased – due in part to those computers, phones and other technology – so has the sense of urgency about things – if we’re not connected, we might not know what’s happening. So, really, we’ve become victims of our own technological success, and ultimately, slaves to it, at least after a fashion.