There is an anecdote in a recent piece by Noemi Klein’s in The Guardian. A young girl had some kind of operation and she remembers waking up and not saying ‘mum!’ or ‘nurse!’ but ‘my iPhone!’
Are we all screenagers who need to be rescued in analogue?
If so, the analogue rescuers are strange things such as face to face, doing stuff together, sharing person-to-person, no screen to screen.
Oh! One screen is not enough. Multi-tasking and multi-screening is the new normal. Did you know that you can be on Face Time with somebody, play x-Box at the same time, and have an iPad on the side with some un-finished YouTube, not counting streamed music from somewhere in cyberspace? And doing homework. Of course you do. You have scr(t)eeenagers at home. Or your neighbours.
Some teenagers rooms look today more like a command and control centre for a movie set, something to lend to Homeland producers, or the Spooks people. And some teenagers rooms have more updated technology than the Organizational Development department.
When I started working in the pharmaceutical industry, after clinical practice, and before my current consulting companies The Chalfont Project and Viral Change LLP, companies had more technology than homes. I was the proud home owner of a fax machine and was well ahead of the game. Then, at some point of the digital evolution, the inversion took place. There are more apps and digital stuff in our hands ‘outside work’ than at work. Your home broadband is very good, and the intranet in the office still so slow.
I attended a Digital conference last week. One of the presenters asked the audience if checking their iPhone (universal proxy for smartphone) was the last thing they did before going to sleep. Overwhelming hands up. If checking their iPhone was the first thing they did when they woke up. Same. There were no teenagers in the room. All screenagers.
We talk about these tings as if they were curious anecdotes, findings worth an ethnographic entry in a field book by an alien anthropologist. But this is us today. There are not Digital Natives as opposed to the non digital. We are all colonised.
By the way, that piece in The Guardian ended with assertions about the loneliness of the generation Z, who follows the Millennial generation (those Millennial are getting older!) and how hard is for them to break away from it. Some of them apparently said things such as ‘Life for us is hard. A struggle’.
The comments section of any digital article is often more interesting that the article itself. Here is a comment from an older reader:
Laughing my head off! Life for every generation was a struggle.
I mean…people were dropping bombs on our heads, or the only factory in town was closing down or we only had a pair of short trousers to wear on the below freezing walk to school or every year we suffered debilitating asthma because of the mould and damp on the bedroom wall where we slept.
The only difference between this generation or previous ones….is that no-one ever asked us how we felt about it…because no-one really cared.
But now we have screens. And you reading this on one.
Is that singularity that near?