TECHGRUMPS: technology addictions & the rise of a new social (un)conscience

26 Apr

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)

Jamiroquai at MEN Arena Manchester (19 Apr 2011)

Jamiroquai at MEN Arena Manchester (19 Apr 2011)

  • 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!

Techgrumps 27: Non geeks go raw like sushi

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4 Responses to “TECHGRUMPS: technology addictions & the rise of a new social (un)conscience”

  1. LR April 28, 2011 at 7:04 am #

    I agree. I live in Japan and these trends are grossly visible. People walk around hunched over their phones and are oblivious to their surroundings. They get on the train with their partner and immediately begin playing a game while their partner looks on. All of this is sad to see.

    Somehow if you tend to use your smartphone a lot I feel that your wider vision is affected, and not in a good way. Your eye balls seem to move around less and are more fixed.

    • Dr. Maria Aretoulaki April 28, 2011 at 11:39 am #

      Indeed! The health effects of gadget overuse are currently greatly underestimated too!

  2. Elias Shams April 27, 2011 at 3:22 pm #

    It’s no brainer to see that social media is here to stay for good. Given vast variety of the existing channels to choose and stick with, it’s time for such a hot space to enter into a new category. There is a need for a portal to provide a quick and intelligent decision for both the consumer and the enterprise about their online connections.

    A Platform to Help us to Distinguish Our Quality vs. Quantity Friends, Fans, Followers, and Companies

    Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Youtube, Flickr and others have been doing a decent job of providing additional marketing exposure and even in some cases, additional revenue. However, as more and more social networking sites pop up, how do you manage your brand across all these channels? Maybe more importantly, which one of these sites should you select as the one that will help you best reach your target audience? The proliferation of the social media avenues is becoming overwhelming.

    This glut of information reminds me of the early 90’s when WWW was adopted broadly by the general public. Every company rushed to have a presence, to the point it became literally impossible to find the right information on the Web. That’s when a better generation of search engines – at first the Yahoo! and then Google – entered the market and helped us find the most relevant information by just typing simple keywords in their search box. If you had asked before Google launched, if there was a need for another search engine – most would have said no, we already have those….

    Then came Web 1.0 & 2.0 – Youtube, Flickr, myspace, Facebook, Twitter and countless others have turned everyday people into content producers, influencers and experts. We basically tripled down on the information overload How do you know which channels to select for deploying your social media strategy? How do you know which one is the right channel to let your fans and followers to find you, your products, and services? Most importantly, who is Joe Smith that is recommending that person, that company, that product?

    I hope my awesomize.me can accomplish such a mission. The site is not another social networking platform. Yet the portal to all your existing social media channels. The platform helps you, your fans, your potential clients to make an intelligent decision as to which company to connect to or follow via which social media channels and why? It’s free!

    Elias
    CEO & Founder
    http://awesomize.me

    • Dr. Maria Aretoulaki April 27, 2011 at 3:32 pm #

      interesting concept. I wonder whether the problem of excessive social media notifications that I whinge about in the podcast and blog post will be eliminated through the use of such a portal.

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