Instant access and the need to be in available at all times are a phenomena of the times. Various tools facilitate this communication – SMS, snapchat, facebook, instagram and to a lesser degree email all demand a response within about 24 hours – any longer and you can be perceived to be disinterested, rude, or worse still, irrelevant and out of touch!
If you miss this required response period the post is too far down the feed for your response to have any significant impact. It’s a bit like shutting gate after the horse has bolted. Particularly for teens – what’s the value in your “like” if most people are not going to see that like racked up. When something is shared in a group (even an email) you need to quickly respond to be a relevant part of that conversation and potentially influence the thrust and nature of the conversation.
I constantly hear in groups that this puts pressure on people to be constantly in touch and makes it hard to take a break from your technological world (be it because of work or social networking).
Unions in France are petitioning for a requirement that workers get 11 hours break from calls and emails each day – a move that would block people from their emails outside work hours. Their argument – why fight for a 35 hour week when people are spending up to 4 hours each day responding to work emails and calls?
There is no doubt that instant forms of written and visual messaging have provided real benefits – they allow us to communicate when we can’t talk, communicate when we DON’T want to talk, they allow us to communicate at all times of the day/night and they are an efficient way to get a message across and tick off or delegate jobs on the to-do list. In terms of social media it means we are across what is happening at all times across a myriad of locations (who knew so many people revelled in the Autumn Racing carnival? I certainly didn’t before noticing all the glamours in black and white on my Instagram feed over the last two weeks). We feel connected even if we aren’t.
However the pressure to respond and be part of the conversation does however also mean that adults (not just teenagers) spend much of their downtime hovering or actively monitoring their phone ensuring they don’t miss a thing. It does beg the question – what are they missing out on in the real world.
Growing awareness of this as an issue has given prominence to the importance of mindfulness because as we know – with every major behavioural shift we always see at least one counter trend.