A little over 10 years ago the world was a very different place. I was studying at university and going out most nights. It was probably the most social time of my life, yet I didn’t have a mobile phone, a digital camera, or an email address and I wasn’t a member of any social sites like Facebook or Twitter. I didn’t even own a computer!
Fast forward a decade and such a life seems unimaginable.
Today most of us are constantly connected. We carry phones and we regularly check in our online lives. We have come to expect instant replies and get concerned if someone doesn’t message back within a few minutes. We get annoyed if emails aren’t responded to within a few hours.
Internet connected computers are standard issue in our houses. Smart phones are increasingly popular and there are a myriad of social networking sites we can contact friends through. Then there is the contact we receive from companies. For almost anything you could be interested in, there is someone who is willing to fill your inbox, send updates to your Facebook page, text you SMS messages, tweet you and often all of the above. I know people who say they couldn’t live without their iPhone and others that struggle when they don’t have an internet connection. Our lives have become filled with information and online contact but has this technology made our lives any better?
I would say yes, and no! There is no denying that the internet is a valuable resource. Simple answers that years ago could have taken days to find can now be researched in a few minutes. Email makes doing business far easier and allows us contact with friends all over the world. Mobile phones offer us freedom that fixed phones can’t. Online technologies allow companies that market well to reach a huge audience in a very limited time.
However, social media that allows us to connect with each other can also distance us. Many of us can’t go 5 minutes without checking an update on our phone, SMSing or checking something on the internet. Rather than spending real time with other people we are spending it connecting online.
We need to remember that updating your online status is not the same as catching up with a friend to tell them about your day and having friends on Facebook is not real friendship. Online interaction is not the same as, and can never replace, real human interactions but unfortunately for many people it does or it takes precedence even when they are in real human situations.
I’m not trying to say that we should give up on our online lives but I do believe we should actively try and make them a less important part of our life where possible. We should connect with each other in person more often rather than online. We should show our children that there is more to life than technology. I personally have unsubscribed from all newsletters that don’t offer me something valuable and on weekends I regularly turn the computer off and leave my phone at home and guess what? The world doesn’t fall apart.