Social media has made narcissists of us all.
We define ourselves by it, through it, communicating the “me” at the expense of the “we”.
And its chief ally is the smartphone.
We now live our lives through the “windows” of our mobile devices and these “windows” have become the primary sales mechanism for so many businesses.
Of course, in this respect little has changed. People have always been encouraging us to consume but their opportunities for doing it were historically shackled by the limitations of technology. Traditional media – newspapers, magazines, radio and TV – made it easier. Modern technology – internet, social media and smartphones – made it a 24/7 business. It also made it immediate.
But what happens to a society when it has everything available at the push of a button? Does it perhaps become more selfish…?
Bricks and mortar retail is dying because we can order whatever we desire from the comfort of our own homes with little more than a handset.
Movies are evolving as we stream to our devices, bringing the action to where we are. Music is delivered in the same way, allowing us to cherry-pick our favourite tracks and listen on the move. And that represents the tip of the tech iceberg. We can order a cab, a meal or a flight, all through one single source.
I wouldn’t want to return to a world where I couldn’t rent my favourite film on my terms. Can you imagine going to Netflix and being unable to see the latest Avengers movie because someone in Brussels was currently watching it…?
I love technology. BUT, I don’t want it to define me. Nor do I want it to be the barometer by which everything in my life is measured.
As I write, my son is over on the other side of the world teaching in Mexico and the benefit of being able to call or FaceTime him is invaluable. But it is nothing to the sense of being able to see him in the flesh, embrace him and show him that I love him.
Naturally, when there is no other option a “synthetic” experience will do. But it should always be viewed as a supplement to the real thing rather than a replacement.
As a species we are hardwired to engage, we are social animals. The joy derived from a group of friends or family coming together can never be replicated with technology. To touch, to listen, to share a live moment without any third party interface is uniquely human.
We associate a sense of disposability to technology and I believe that bleeds into how we interact when we initiate contact through a device.
Imagine if you were sitting with a colleague in the middle of a conversation and he or she suddenly turned away and started speaking to someone else, without even acknowledging you.
That would be considered rude, right?
But how many meetings have you sat through where one or more of those present has suddenly been distracted by their phones or someone at a dinner party has pulled out their phone and started texting?
In our home, we placed a ban on smartphones at the dinner table so that we can enjoy meals as a family. The very fact that we had to introduce this rule is probably material for a whole other article but speaks volumes about the society we have become.
When we live in a world that is all about the “me” we start to believe that our decisions and our decisions alone are important. We start to make assumptions that others will be happy to orbit around us.
Everything in life is now centered on this ubiquitous device and most of us have such a personal connection with our handset that we can never be comfortably separated from it for very long. It’s almost a part of us. For a significant number, it could be the closest single relationship they have.
Don’t believe me…? Try taking someone’s mobile from them and then watch the sense of anxiety that begins to unfold after a small amount of time away from it. The reaction is likely to be the same, regardless of age or gender.
For me, the most worrying thing is that we have built up this huge dependency in just over a decade. We have become addicts overnight without even realising it, slaves to a system that has quickly become the dominant factor in our lives.
And right now, our only salvation to reconnect as a species is to learn again how to manage the system rather than allowing it to manage us.