BackBy Deanna Hartley — 28 October 2008Of course, in today’s communications-rich world, in which a growing number of tech-savvy Millennials are entering the workforce, the pressure is on to keep up with changing technology. And while technology has served well in many facets of life — even to the extent of reducing the so-called digital divide — one has to wonder whether some technical gadgets and online applications are viewed as nuisances rather than assets.
A worldwide study sponsored by Nortel and carried out by Interactive Data Corp. (IDC) revealed a growing number of “hyperconnected users,” or people who use a minimum of seven devices for work and personal access, as well as at least nine applications such as IM, text messaging, Web conferencing and social networks.
More specifically, a hyperconnected individual is defined by the IDC as someone who is “reasonably happy with their work/life balance, even though they use almost all devices and applications for both, and they are willing to communicate with work on vacation, in restaurants, from bed and even in places of worship.”
Talk about excessive!
These devices could constitute anything from laptops to PDAs to car-based systems, while the applications could range from Second Life to Twitter to wikis.
The study isn’t just reflective of people in the U.S., though the highest percentage of hyperconnected folks reside in the U.S. and China. This concept of hyperconnectivity seems to be an emerging trend around the world, including the Asia Pacific region and areas in Latin America. It also surpasses age boundaries and is prevalent in a variety of industries.
The study also points out that the boundary between business and personal use is becoming increasingly blurred. Indeed, while these hyperconnected individuals are using gadgets such as BlackBerrys and notebooks in the workplace, they don’t seem to have an “off switch” when they return home. And this is especially true of text or instant messaging, social networking and posting to blogs, wikis and forums.
Is this trend — or a more accurate term might be “lifestyle” — taking a toll on face-to-face communications?
One issue that is bound to arise with this topic is efficiency: Isn’t shooting someone a one-line e-mail, as opposed to meeting with that person face-to-face, less time-consuming and therefore more efficient? And if so, is this efficiency coming at the cost of building and strengthening relationships with our families, relatives, friends and colleagues?
Some would argue programs such as Facebook and MySpace facilitate and enhance interpersonal relationships because they allow people to communicate with hundreds — if not thousands — of virtual “friends.” Others may be of the opinion that these programs simply give the individual the false perception that he or she is connected.
The purpose of this debate isn’t to determine whether technology is useful or harmful to a person’s daily life and activities. The question is: Do you control technology, or do your technical devices and applications control you? I would guess that being enslaved to more than seven applications or devices is a little excessive, but some would beg to differ.
Case in point: Ask anyone if he or she would rather have a friendly chat with someone on the train during the daily commute or use that time to fire up a BlackBerry and reply to e-mails. It may come as no surprise that many, if not most, would prefer the latter.
Or even take a company outing, for instance: How often will you find the new employee 100 percent engaged in a conversation with colleagues before pulling out his or her iPhone to look up the previous night’s NFL scores or find directions to the nearest restaurant?
But seriously, could you imagine living in a cold, robotic kind of world where you would have to resort to text messaging your mom to pass the mashed potatoes across the dinner table while she’s using her iPhone to vote for her favorite “Dancing With the Stars” celebrity?
While it largely remains a personal choice, one does have to wonder what impact this growing hyperconnectivity will have on our society at-large. And again, the answers may be as different as the devices available in the marketplace.
– Deanna Hartley, email@example.com
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