The Tyranny of Twitter

20 01 2010

Pretty much my first ever blog was entitle Twitter Ye Not.  At that time I was unpersuaded that I needed to know what everyone in the world had for breakfast or where they were off to for lunch.

In the months that have passed I have been forced to reconsider my stance as having a presence on social media sites such as twitter and facebook is, I am assured by people who are paid to know these things, essential to the growth of my business.

So I now have a twitter acoount, which I am probably contractually obliged to ask you to follow at, and have been shocked/amazed/horrified to discover how enslaving it is. There is a constant, nagging need to check for tweets. It is becoming increasingly difficult to control the urge to check to see if anything has changed since I last looked.  And it is not just me.  My bedroom is below that of my son and most nights I drift off to sleep to the electronic bleep of new messages arriving into his laptop from MSN.

And with social media being used more and more as a tool to promote businesses, the boundaries between work and home are becoming increasingly blurred. It was bad enough in the days when the pager made it possible to be called into work at the weekend but now the mobile phone means many of us are on call 24/7 and the laptop means that our work is always with us.

Technology, as presented in the old BBC programme Tomorrow’s World, was going to make our lives better. But has it?

Certainly it is hard to argue against labour saving devices such as the automatic washing machine over the washtub and mangle but are we endangering the quality of life by ceding so much control of our lives to technology.  Well, people today experience more depression than previous generations and there is a wealth of papers to suggest that people who place value on material goals are unhappier than those that don’t and that lack of a clear division between our home and work environments damage our personal relationships.

Here’s a personal observation. When I was a youngster I would head off in the morning and play out all day, just round and about with friends, maybe coming home for lunch, maybe not. As long as we were home before it got dark my mum didn’t worry. It’s not that she didn’t care but knowing that we were out playing, that we would stay close-ish to home, were pretty sensible and that we’d come home when we were hungry, was enough information. My son, in common with the vast majority of teenagers,  has a mobile phone and we can keep in touch whenever he is away from the house. This should make us modern mums feel more  secure about the safety of our children, knowing that they can get in touch if there is a problem. In fact it has made most of us feel less secure as because they can keep in touch we think that they should and we feel compelled to check for messages all of the time. We feel less secure as we have less control.

It is my belief that, if we are going to take control of our lives we need to take control of the technology we need to think more clinically about what we need to know.

We are available via laptop, phone and via TV 24/7. Most of us will not be able to change that basic situation but it is essential for our mental health that we become better at responding to the valuable and dismissing the useless rather than reacting to each stimulus that the technology sends us as if everything had equal merit.

While I have been writing this I have received 5 new e-mails and 2 linkedin messages. There were 54 additions to my facebook live feed and 78 tweets.

It is up to me what I do with all that information.