Facebook, Twitter and whatever other channels we choose to interact with our friends and families have changed the face of communication in the last few years. But is this constant broadcasting of our activities enhancing our lives and reinforcing relationships, or somehow detracting from the quality of life and actually dehumanising us?
Let me confess to being an iPhone-owning, tweeting Facebook addict myself, so to rant against social media and technology would be hypocritical. These are just a few observations and an appeal to step back from the tech occasionally and communicate on a more human and direct level.
I recently stumbled upon (note, not StumbleUponed) a clever thing Kit Kat set up in Amsterdam. They created the searingly postmodern-ironic ‘Free No Wi-Fi’ zone. Yes, that’s not a typo, they actually had a 5 metre radius spot around a bench with all signals blocked to Wi-Fi devices in an attempt to force biscuit-scoffing folk to actually talk to one another, rather than update their Facebook status as ‘Eating a Kit Kat, it’s freezing out here, why didn’t I just stay indoors? LOL.’
It’s quite admirable in a way, and nicely ties in with their ‘Take a break’ tagline, though it is slightly at odds with the 14.5 million Facebook likes Kit Kat has – how are they supposed to acquire any more with that attitude, eh? But enough of my cynicism. What Kit Kat has done, of course, is in a small way made us realise that sometimes life is best enjoyed with less technology and more direct human interaction, without having a touch-screen interface in between.
Contrast this with the London Underground, where Wi-Fi is currently being installed in stations, so you can stay glued to your mobile device even whilst 360ft underground. This opens up lots of opportunities for advertisers to create much more engaging, interactive experiences using technologies such as augmented reality and is also great for tracking the performance of those ads. Sadly, or thankfully (depending on your viewpoint), people might have to resort to attempting conversation once the train is in motion as the coverage doesn’t yet extend to the tunnels themselves.
Currently airing on Channel 4 is Black Mirror, created by Charlie Brooker. Exploring the theme of how modern technology might affect us in the future, with many references to social media. For instance, the first episode is the tale of a widowed woman who has a facsimile of her late husband created, using his tweets, voicemails and Facebook posts as reference. It’s typically dark and unsettling (as is the fashion, why can’t there just be a nice episode where we all have jet packs?). As Brooker said in a recent interview “It usually comes from ideas I find amusing – and it’s sort of more fun to play them out in a bleak way. It felt like an untapped massive resource for creepy, dark stories.” But then offsets that with “… but generally, you know, I think technology is a force for good.”
It will be interesting to see how many of his interpretations of the future come true. Not too many, I hope – although, as mentioned in one of his earlier series, the much more frivolous Nathan Barley, he was right in his prediction of us having mobile phones with in-built MP3 mixing decks…
Finally, have you ever found yourself at a supermarket and going for a self-service checkout rather than the vacant one next to it that’s operated my an actual human? It's all too easy to use these modern conveniences (or in the case of self-checkouts, inconveniences) when really we should be interacting with one another. This, along with other ‘perils of modern life’, is nicely captured in a recent series of illustrations by Jean Jullien. Click here to take a look.