Do you get Super-highway Rage when you’re connection is dropped, or you can’t find wifi?
Does your blood pressure and perspiration rate increase in inverse proportion to the number of battery bars you have left?
Is your eye-to-eye / eye-to-screen ratio very poor?
Perhaps you are suffering.
Hyperconnectia sufferers may appear distant or ill at ease in human company. They will regularly text others during conversations, or disappear to check blog stats. They will tend to have their laptop open in meetings, even social gatherings, and their eye-to-eye / eye-to-screen contact ratios may be very poor. They appear happier with on-line relationships than face-to-face ones.
On a more serious note, an excellent article in this month’s Prospect (full article here) asks whether an always-on-everywhere society is such a good thing:
“Most of the argument about our progress into the digital future assumes that it is both inevitable and desirable…The only question left unanswered is how quickly we will get there. But while the benefits of the digital revolution are evident enough,
we should surely be wary of embracing a worldview that sees technological bottlenecks only as restraints on freedom. London Underground is looking at ways of enabling mobile phones to work on the tube, to eradicate one of the city’s last blocks on digital connectivity. But what else will be lost in the process? Technological bottlenecks can also be necessary conditions of social interaction or valuable moments of isolation.
We learned this lesson following a previous wave of modernist excess, when urban planners set about carving up cities with multi-lane freeways. Until Jane Jacobs’s The Death and Life of Great American Cities was published in 1961, planners had not considered that slowing traffic down might be as valuable as speeding it up. Yet now it is inconceivable that planners could plough motorways through our cities in the name of progress.”
What will be lost in the process when we finally are all always-on-everywhere? A lot. The CyberSelf is never whole. We need face to face, unmediated with screens, to grow whole.
The parallel with motorways and car travel is a very good one, and I think the Jane Jacob’s excellent work may have some important lessons for us. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities she explores how crime rates and social dis-ease rise with the increased use of the car. Building busy roads through communities reduces pavement use, reduces walking-pace interaction, and thus means that people are unable to connect in a meaningful way. The potential for crime and anti-social behaviour thus increases, as people are a) less likely to see anything as they whizz by in their metal pods and b) are more likely to commit it as they lack meaningful relationships with those they inhabit these spaces with.
The crime element is perhaps less of an issue, but the antisocial one is perhaps huge. Face to face talk is already rare, and a skill people appear to be losing. ‘Useless’ down-time, where people can properly relax without interruption is rare enough already… But when the tubes and the planes and the mountain huts are all covered by wifi and mobile, what mental escape will there be?
Reminds me of a joke (which I heard about 10 years back!):
4 guys playing golf. While round the first hole, the first gets a call on his mobile. “Yeah” he says, “I’m so important to my company they’ve given me this phone, so I can always keep in touch.” The others are quite impressed.
At the next hole, the second guy suddenly starts talking into his hand. Wondering what he’s doing, he explains that he’s so important to his company that they’ve installed a mobile in his hand, so he’s never out of touch. The others are really pretty impressed.
At the next hole, the 3rd guy just starts mumbling to himself. He explains that he is so important to his company that they’ve installed a mobile in his head. He just has to think of the number and talk. Wow – really impressive.
At the next hole the 4th guy disappears. The others go looking for him, and eventually find him in a clearing of trees, squatting with his pants down. “What the hell are you doing?!” they ask.
“Just expecting a fax.”
Just like pedestrianisation, you’ll see ‘electro-magnetic free’ zones, with guaranteed no coverage, springing up. Places to turn off and relax. You wait.