IRL: A Look At Our Internet Usage
I recently watched an interview with renowned guitarist and singer-songwriter, John Mayer who, when asked how did he become so good, admitted that if he had been born a few years later he wouldn’t have achieved such success: “I came from the last couple of years of a generation where we didn’t have a computer around, we didn’t waste as much time on the internet as we do now”. Mayer observes that culturally we no longer have the concentration to focus on tasks for extended periods because of the excessive stimuli we are subject to. Mayer makes a valid point and highlights the influence the internet has on our everyday lives, raising the question: are we squandering away hours online rather than engaging in real life?
A recent study found that people look at their phone on average 150 times a day. 2.5 billion pieces of information are shared on Facebook every day and 350 million photos are uploaded daily, the average user uploading 217 photos per person. Irish adults spend more than twenty hours a week online, that’s almost a full day. As the majority of us fritter away hours in front of a screen, we must question the productivity of our actions.
As we live in a hyper-connected world, are our face-to-face interactions being jeopardised? Are we failing to connect with what’s right in front of us as we watch the world through a screen? For many of us, our experiences are only real when they are shared; social media proves our existence and our identities are intermittently linked with our online profiles. Occasions such as birthdays, weddings, graduations and so forth are all documented via social media. Events such as concerts, holidays or even a casual reunion of friends do not feel real until a Snapchat has been sent or a Facebook check-in carried out.
American technology journalist and senior editor for The Verge, Paul Miller, decided to spend a year offline to disconnect from the hyper-connected world in an effort to find himself. Miller documented his efforts candidly. He talked about the benefits of giving up the internet: increased levels of focus, more time for reading and a strengthening of relationships with loved ones. However, it didn’t fix productivity completely. He admitted that a life without the internet for him led to boredom and playing a lot of video games. Miller is not advocating a complete abstinence from the internet, rather the importance of striking a balance and rather assessing our priorities and to do that thing we want to do and not let the internet take over.
In addition to our productivity being stunted due to excessive usage, the more serious question of privacy must be raised. Beeban Kidron (Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason) uncovers some stark truths in her documentary ‘In Real Life’. She remarks that privacy is non-existent when it comes to the internet and questions the information we are given. “Our history is archived by a private company, on servers that belong to them for commercial purposes that belong to them.” A scary thought.
Don’t get me wrong, the internet has countless numbers of benefits too. It is an excellent tool, a vital source of information and allows us to instantly connect with people far and wide. It has helped me complete several tasks, from finding recipes to researching college essays to connecting with family and friends. It is rather about striking a balance – as Miller suggests – doing what you want to do and not letting the internet stand in the way. Perhaps if we cut down on our internet usage, who knows we might have more John Mayers and other such talented people in the world!
Photo c/o telegraph.co.uk