We live in a hyper-connected world. But are we missing out?
It’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot over recent weeks. It all started on a weekend with friends in a country house near Ross-on-Wye. The advert was clear, the house has ‘Free WiFi’, which is good because I don’t go anywhere without Wifi. Except when we got there it wasn’t working, and was destined not to work the entire weekend. To compound matters, there was no phone signal either, nowhere in the grounds, or along the road (trust me, I tried).
I felt utterly bereft, to the point of agitation. Agitation that grew when no-one else around me seemed to care. “What if something happened?” I moaned, “The triffids could have taken over and we wouldn’t even know!” – the fact my friends thought I was joking just made it worse.
Reading that back, it does sound ridiculous, but I genuinely felt anxious that I wouldn’t be ‘connected’ for three whole days. So ridiculous, yes. But also true.
Since returning to civilisation* (*a world of WiFi and data connections) I have been trying to answer why I felt so bereft. And the best answer I can come up with is I hate missing out, more specifically, I hate not knowing something that other people do. I love the feeling of being the person who ‘breaks’ news in the office, the one in-the-know.
Yet, I can’t help feeling that, in my desire to not miss out on one thing, I am potentially missing out on much more.
My instapaper is full of articles I want to read, but never will. I manage about a quarter of a newspaper a day. I am currently half-reading about four books, but not convinced I’ll finish any of them. And that’s just the start of it.
I feel like I never consume things in their completeness – I listen to individual tracks, not albums, I read the bits of news where the headline grabs my attention, but not the whole paper, (and when I say read I, of course, mean scan), and when I watch a TV programme or a film, I’m also watching my iPad to see who else is watching and what they think. It’s both exhausting and increasingly unfulfilling. Machines can be as connected as they (we) like but for humans, surely there must a be limit to how many inputs are desirable?
Which is why I’m going to make a conscious effort to start reducing my inputs and by doing so hopefully increase the amount I actually consume.
All this means, at least for a bit, I’ll be quitting twitter. It’s not that I don’t love it – in many ways, it’s the opposite. But I am not sure I love what it’s turning me into.
See you around.