15 Sep 2010View Comments
Gone are the dreadful days when we’d stagger through country walks with our families, wailing at the lack of internet connectivity. At a picnic last weekend I witnessed a man spend his whole afternoon with his back to his family, entirely absorbed in his laptop.
So thanks to technology, we no longer have to interact with our families, even at weekends. But we can interact with just about anyone else, anywhere in the world, often whether we’d like to or not. Like 3PAR’s share price, social media has exploded, but there are pitfalls for the unwary.
Ever quick on technology uptake, my father was recently trialling a service that hooks users up with random people across the globe for video calls. Why? I’ve no idea, possibly to avoid talking to his family. He was swiftly linked to a man from Massachusetts. After conversing for a few minutes, my father’s curiosity got the better of him.
“Must be hot where you are?” he ventured.
“Nope,” the man drawled.
“So why aren’t you wearing any…oh.”
Feeling suddenly vulnerable, Sumner senior logged off.
Then there was the time he was connecting to random strangers through bulletin boards, circa 1986 BI (Before Internet). He was enjoying a lively instant text conversation (cutting edge capability for the time), but gradually became confused.
“Why does he finish every sentence with ‘lots of love’?” he asked me in a stage whisper, as if the modem might grab his words and spirit them across the ether.
“LOL means ‘laugh out loud’,” I explained.
But it’s more pervasive than that. I thought mobile phones were bad enough, enabling people you left the house to avoid to track you down and ask you how to connect the printer to the microwave at any hour of the day or night, but smartphones mean they don’t have to stop there. There’s also email, Skype or (figures accurate at time of writing) fourteen billion social media applications that friends, relatives and the advertising industry can use to ensure that you’ll never quite finish that book.
Technology is an enabler, but the problem is I can’t choose whom it enables.
Whilst I’ll concede technology from mobiles to social media helps to connect businesses and people, and not just to American nudists, it appears to me that functionality has overreached both demand and sanity.
Thanks to Twitter I can tell you the precise moment that Stephen Fry purchases a new pair of shoes. If technology really wants to improve my life, it should fly me to a beach somewhere, then make itself scarce.
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