Sunday, July 10, 2011

Addicted to digital

The other day I was on the train on my way to the office. It was peak hour, and I ended up having to stand up most of the way. Sitting in front of me for a large part of the journey was a smartly dressed woman with an iPad.

Nothing out of the ordinary about that these days, but I couldn’t help sneaking a peak at what she was doing on her iPad.

Watching a movie? No.

Catching up on the latest news? No.

Playing Angry Birds? Sadly not!

In fact, for the entire twenty minute journey the woman did nothing more than check her email.

She opened emails. She read some of them. And deleted many of them. She also replied to one or two. But that was pretty much all she did during her journey to work.

A year ago this lady would have probably done the exact same thing on her smart phone. I doubt she’s alone in this behaviour. I often check emails on my iPhone. I’m sure you do too.

The thing is, it’s getting harder and harder to discipline yourself to actually switch off when you’re out of the office.

So just as many people have made a tree or sea change to break free of the urban grind, people are now starting to make the same kind of change digitally.

A digital sea change, if you will.

I first came across this phenomenon a couple of weeks ago when I caught up with my friend Ned Dwyer for a drink after work.

A partner in a small digital agency, he is of course an early adopter of most digital gadgets and devices.

During the course of our conversation, Ned answered a mobile phone call on exactly that – a mobile phone.

Not an iPhone. Not a Blackberry. Not even some sort of Android device. Just a good old mobile phone. The sort of phone I didn’t even realise they made any more.

I knew he had an iPhone, so I asked what happened to it. He laughed and said he’d send me a link in the morning. Which of course he did.

The link clicked through to a blog post that he’d recently published entitled; “Why we ditched our iPhones.” It’s a fascinating read. Here’s the opening couple of paragraphs;

“Over the last three months we’ve all switched off our iPhones, put them in a drawer and embraced the lo-fi life that comes with owning a burner.

A burner is the most basic handset that you can get.

The reference is from HBO’s The Wire where the drug-dealing protagonists are reduced to talking on pre-paid mobile phones that they can throw away to keep police off their backs.

There is no email, no Bluetooth, no camera. Just SMS and phone calls.”

Now I don’t know about you, but the idea of switching to a back-to-basics mobile sounds like hell on earth to me. I simply can’t imagine life without my iPhone.

However it looks like the optimum connectivity offered by smart devices like the iPhone is beginning to overwhelm people.

I guess one person’s idea of convenience is another’s notion of hell. But according to Ned Dwyer, there is a genuine upside to disconnecting;

“The best thing is the extra time that it gives you to sit and think. It forces you to take stock of your surroundings and get comfortable with your own company.”

Again, that sounds great in theory, but I’m still not sure that it’s for me.

However, as Ned himself says, “We’re connected to more information than we could ever consume in a lifetime, stealing moments away from the network is the best way to keep our sanity.”

Ned Dwyer

No comments: