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Hyperconnectivity: Friend or foe?

Hyperconnectivity: Friend or foe?

There's no question that we're all getting hyperconnected, but is that good or bad?

However, I think people speak more convincingly with their actions than their words. And what do people do? They voluntarily carry - obsessively carry - cell phones, sign up for newer and better ways to communicate online, and generally avoid unplugging under any circumstances. The vocal naysayers create the impression that everyone is against hyperconnectivity. But in reality the majority want more, not less, connectivity.

The IDC report even addressed the happiness factor among the hyperconnected. The study found that people are using nearly all their devices and applications for both work and personal use. Most are "reasonably happy" with their "work/life balance," and are willing to stay in touch just about anywhere, including while on vacation, in restaurants - even in bed and in "place of worship."

The study found that phones are more important to those surveyed than even wallets or keys.

I have a very simple explanation for why people obsessively carry, seek out, and happily use devices and applications that make us hyperconnected. No, we don't have unhealthy addictions and, for the most part, aren't being forced by the evil corporations we work for. The answer is: human nature.

Evolution has hardwired us to think and behave and live in specific ways. For the better part of 2 million years, we humans have lived in either small, nomadic tribes or in small villages of no more than a few dozen people. With our giant brains and sophisticated vocal chords, we are the communication animal. We are programmed to live in constant or daily communication with every living person we know.

Civilization changed all that. Now we live in towns and cities and roam the world. Unlike our ancestors, we are for the first time in our evolutionary history physically disconnected from our families, friends and acquaintances.

I would argue that not being able to instantly connect with everyone you know is an artificial condition for humans, and that "hyperconnectivity" is our natural state. "Hyperconnectivity" is human nature. I'll go even further: I believe that hyper-communication is the very thing that makes us human.

Our craving to return to "hyperconnectivity" is what's really driving the inexorable trend spelled out by IDC's report.

So what, exactly, are the anti-hyperconnectivity complainers so vexed about? I believe it's not the connectivity, but the artificiality of that connectivity. The annoying ring-tones, the cell conversations you can hear only one side of, the Pavlovian response to a ringing CrackBerry. They don't like the idea of personal time being interrupted by work calls and e-mails. These are all valid concerns, but they're all solvable by better etiquette and by people asserting control over their own devices. If you want to "just unplug once in a while," then just unplug.

So is hyperconnectivity good or bad? I think it's good. But it really doesn't matter. It's going to happen regardless of what anyone thinks.

Now, if you'll excuse me, my CrackBerry is ringing.

Mike Elgan writes about technology and global tech culture. Contact Mike at mike.elgan@elgan.com or his blog, The Raw Feed.


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