On Easter Sunday (24 April 2011), I was happy and honoured to take part in the live recording of the latest TECHGRUMPS podcast, Techgrumps 27: Non geeks go raw like sushi (sic!). 80 minutes of whinging about the latest technology trends, as well as the uses of said technology.
My contribution to the grump world is complaining about the social terror of checking your smartphone notifications every 5 minutes, whatever the (social) context, and the de facto new social media exhibitionism regarding all facets of your personal life through the various social media (a stark contrast to my earlier blog posts on the Social Media Scenes in Manchester and London!). Hear me from the 10th to the 32nd minute complain about:
- people spending more time updating their current location and taking photos and videos at a gig rather than dancing, singing and enjoying said gig (check the phone screens in the two photos below I took from a Jamiroquai gig earlier this month)
- people checking their Facebook or Twitter notifications on their phone in the middle of a philosophical conversation (usually initiated by the person without a smartphone )
- people checking their phone every 5 minutes in the middle of a film at the cinema, just in case someone has texted them or has posted a witticism on Twitter or Facebook (and that’s even when the film is NOT horrible)
- people needing to offload very personal information and details on their daily routines every hour of the day on their wide social media audiences, which consist mainly of remote acquaintances rather than close friends (who are usually not remotely interested in said details either)
This excessive notification checking, irrespective of the current social situation, is of course partly due to the availability of the technology itself, i.e. integration of Facebook or Twitter on your phone, internet on-the-go, dedicated notification sounds for texts, Facebook, Twitter, chat etc. So, in all fairness, it is hard not to check your phone when you do get a notification (sound). For all you know, it could be a missed call from a loved one who has been in an accident, or an email confirming that new contract. Nevertheless, it seems that we are all sucked up in a world of instantly available information and an overflow of personal and less personal data that we don’t seem able to escape from. As a result, we are missing the NOW, the experience of the current moment and of the person(s) standing opposite us in real life. This obsessive behaviour can be construed as rude and anti-social by the people in the immediate surroundings not checking their phones, but – more than anything – it indicates a shift in general social conscience and social mores, whereby the remote online acquaintance in the US you have never met in your life is allocated by default the same or more (potential?) value than the close offline friend sitting next to you here and now. So new types of shallow relationships are cropping up. Whether someone has retweeted you is becoming more important than whether someone actually lends an open ear to you at a cafe to discuss your problems over a cup of coffee.
This need to connect and be “approved” by as many people as possible, whether real close friends, Facebook “friends” or Twitter followers you are not even remotely interested in, must have its roots at the basic human need for love, approval and the sense of belonging (in the right groups). Still, it seems that our whole lives are run by this new need for exhibitionism and we are practically controlled indirectly by our ubiquitous and international audience who is or may be reading.
Having suffered the social media notification terror myself when sitting at my laptop, I refuse to use that functionality or indeed the internet on my (admittedly palaeolithic) phone. Even the thought of getting a free smartphone scares me! My time when I’m away from my laptop is my treasured time OFFLINE and I want it to remain that way! I have already spent thousands of invaluable hours chained to my laptop obsessing over emails and notifications in the past 20 years, hours that have been sadly subtracted off MY LIFE! So this is not a rant about Social Media – which often really help in the democratisation of Governments, processes and opinion. This is a rant about Social Media abuse and their infliction onto others as well as onto ourselves.
It sounds very heavy but the whole podcast is actually full of witty jokes and hearty laughter! And there are several more techy topics covered, as you can see on the podcast page: from the “native” IE to Firebug, Wikimedia, LaTeX, and the latest iphone personal information storage scare. Enjoy!