Tech Addict, Control Thyself

Posted on January 5, 2016 by Havas PR

Tech Addict creativecommons.org:Andres Nieto Porras

This is the second of Havas PR’s “11 Trends for 2016.”

The Amish of Pennsylvania long ago spotted an effect of technology that the rest of us have only recently begun to suspect: Although it might well bring people together virtually, it can also draw them apart physically.

Turning the clock back to the 1950s, people could get a regular supply of moving pictures without leaving the comfort of their lounger, on their TV. They no longer had to go to a movie theater or sports stadium and sit with a crowd of strangers. They could virtually join an audience of millions while physically sitting with just a few others or totally alone. Now with thousands of channels delivered through everything from smartphones to massive high-definition TVs, people in the same home are often watching different things on different devices in different rooms. They’re in roughly the same place physically but in very different spaces psychologically. Even if they are there in the same room watching the same screen, they may well be chatting on social media or checking online sources at the same time.

For 2012, we spotted a trend about wider acceptance of unconventional relationships. “As the modern romantic relationship morphs,” we said, “so does the definition of what a ‘traditional’ family looks like and how it behaves.” Welcome to our new normal relationship: connected but disconnected. (Which links to our trend six years ago that said, “Online tools that can help people become more connected and more effective in communities will take the honors in 2010 and beyond.”)

Even sharing a bed with a loved one is no guarantee of physical togetherness. For a few years now, the media have reflected people’s worries about the effects that smartphones have had on their sex lives. An ad from Durex played into these worries, announcing that research had found a free smartphone app to boost people’s sex lives: the off button. As The Washington Post put it recently: “Your phone, your laptop, your television … they’re all begging for your attention. They’re designed to isolate you from your surroundings and from your partner.”

The jury of informed opinion is out on whether technology is harming our ability to be together and pay attention to one another. Whatever the experts say won’t stop people from worrying as must-have, must-touch, must-use devices increasingly penetrate every corner of life.

Expect to see programs of cyber self-control becoming as common as diets and exercise programs. And expect them to have about as much—or as little—effect on the problem. Like the foods that are engineered to be irresistible, each new cycle of technology evolves to be more addictive than the one before, delivering faster stimulation 24/7, with higher-definition visuals and even more must-have features.

[photo: creativecommons.org/Andres Nieto Porras]

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