It sure is great to live in the developed world. No having to worry about having enough to eat or finding clean drinking water or anything like that. Nope: we freak out when Twitter momentarily goes down, or when we can’t use certain software on our phones. Or, conversely, we complain about the undue influence certain technologies have over our lives. We’re all over the place.
So an article in the NYT zeroes in on the lives of a few families and how technology has torn them apart. You know, reading your e-mail at the dinner table instead of talking to your kids/parents; checking text messages within 1.2 seconds of getting out of bed, etc. The implication is that these activities are bad for traditional family life.
Consider this morning:
Both adults and children have good reasons to wake up and log on. Mom and Dad might need to catch up on e-mail from colleagues in different time zones. Children check text messages and Facebook posts from friends with different bedtimes — and sometime forget their chores in the process.
I actually read something along these lines about a month ago. It’s called “disconnectivity anxiety.” It’s exactly as it sounds: people have become so conditioned to always being online that when the connection goes away they go crazy.
First, our expectations of connectivity have changed dramatically in the past decade. Before the Internet, mobile phones, text messaging, and now Twitter, we simply knew we couldn’t be reached readily by anyone except in person or by landline telephone. The default was disconnectivity, so being disconnected was the norm. Any ability to connect beyond that was a bonus. These days, the expectation is that we can be connected in many ways at any time by anyone. The default is connectivity, so being connected has become the norm. Any break from that norm feels like a loss.
To me, that sounds like a condition that can be unlearned. Sure, be glued to your BlackBerry during work hours, but once you leave the office turn the damn thing off.