Are we losing ourselves in the race to be connected?

One of my colleagues at Fathom wrote a blog post, “Yield to the Tablets!”, that provides his look at how we got to the current generation of tablet computers and where they might take us.

Here’s an excerpt (full post here):

So why all the buzz now? What has changed? And what does this onslaught of tablet PC’s mean?

What has changed:

Our expectations. Our ever deeper entanglement with the web for our business and personal lives demands omnipresent connectivity to the internet. Smart phones were just the start. They allow us connectivity to the web, but is the experience desirable on such a small screen? No. These new tablets are designed to be incredible windows into the internet, with a size, weight and form factor ideal to hold and carry.

Bandwidth. To be truly mobile and wire-free demands wireless internet. Because of smart phones, the cellular data networks have been forced to upgrade their infrastructure to appeal to the demand for bandwidth which allows for unprecedented speed and access for these new devices.

Purpose. We are no longer looking for high-horsepower miniature versions of our full sized workstation. What we want to do with these devices is different. Because of social media and other online environments, the web has become the catalog of our personal lives, a multimedia diary if you will. We want to take all that makes us who we are, everywhere we go. This includes our photos, videos, books (thanks Amazon), magazines, music, contacts, profiles, friends, our connection to our networks and soon, our personal AI powered assistants that gather information for us based on our interests and personalities.

Here’s my comment:

Brent, I hear everything you’re saying and agree that the possibilities are exciting especially in ed and med but (not to be a downer) there is also a scary side to this.

So far as I can tell, advances in this kind of technology have done nothing to simplify life – in fact, just the opposite is true. In your second paragraph you use the term “deeper entanglement”. This is a perfect description of any teenager’s (the next generation of professionals) daily existence. Have you seen them clutching their phones to their chest no matter where they go? Consuming media at a rate of 10.5 hours per every seven hours of media consumption time each day!? (Source: Jan 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation:

Some studies suggest that they can handle this level of “entanglement” just fine and their brains are being quickly rewired to do so. Great (read sarcastically) they can accomplish tasks, maybe even memorize/study at the same time as they text and update and listen. (Other studies reveal less desirable side effects.) Is this good? Is this creating linchpins or robots?

What about actual thinking? Actual alone with their thoughts time? Where they consider a subject uninterrupted for a significant length of time. Where they learn about and become comfortable with themselves as individuals – with a brain and an identity separate from their technology enabled network of distractions. When will they do the hard work needed to understand and love themselves for who they are? And, of course, it’s not just teens.

My fear is that we are heading toward a world of mass psycho-interdependency where, because we are so connected, our inner individual selves get pushed farther and farther down and become indistinguishable from the group’s. Maybe we’re already there.

Any thoughts? Examples that support or allay my concerns? Bring it on, people.

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2 Responses to Are we losing ourselves in the race to be connected?

  1. fran snyder says:

    Although it is disconcerting to notice how technology seems to favor and develop ADD personalities, there is also a very positive side.

    Thanks to the internet, and social networking, individuals (and yes, kids) now have more power than ever before to discover and pursue their passions. For the initiated (read: passionate), there is more opportunity than ever to forge a career (and income) from doing something you love – something from which you are NOT easily distracted. Something where immersion is as likely to be voluntary as it is compelled from a boss.

    • Bruce says:

      Hi Fran,
      Without question, there are those who are able to manage and even capitalize on the constant flow and availability of information. My concern is those who can’t get past the onslaught – who get totally wrapped up in the social-ness and never step out of that space and into their own heads to contemplate who they are in relation to their network or fans or friends. It’s really very similar to the social dynamic that kids (and adults) deal with off the internet – some can’t see past their place in the social standings and it dominates every aspect of their lives while others can create space for that but also create space for other parts of who they are and want to be. The giant difference is the that the internet and its associated networks are always on which makes separation many times harder.

      Thanks for your thoughts, Fran. I hope you keep coming back.

      Your website looks like a great resource – I’m going to keep an eye on it for concerts in my part of CT.

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