Anti-Social Nation?

I’m a geek. I’m addicted to all things digital, let’s face it I grieved when I smashed my iphone, but the more I think about it, the more I begin to wonder if they’re good for us all.

In a world with more opportunities than ever to talk to one another, have we turned into an anti-social nation?

Now that it’s meant to be easier to respond to people as all it takes is a few clicks of a button (whether you’re in the queue at the supermarket, on the loo or even in the bath?!) have we become less personal? Lots of “LUL x” to touch base rather then a phone call, switching from unlimited free minutes to unlimited free messages. Plus, has the sheer amount of communication which lands in our inbox/timeline/voicemail become so overwhelming that we’ve become rude, oblivious and at times inconsiderate to other peoples feelings, whether we mean to or not?

I know, I for one, am AWFUL at responding, messages coming in over a variety of apps, work emails, text, Instant Messaging facilities, facebook WALLS, facebook MESSENGER, Twitter mentions, Twitter Messages, Instagram, Path, private emails, voicemail, blog comments. The list is endless, and because it’s so accessible, they tend to pop up and appear at the most inconvenient moments, when I’m in the car, picking up at the school gate, in a meeting, I glance at them, and then I leave them. Reminding myself to respond to them. Then I get distracted and forget, meaning that they get lost in the whirlwind of communication landing on my phone, only remembering about them when I pop into the messenger service to touch base with my contact myself. How can anybody be capable of responding to everything instantly? The guilt is awful, I always feel bad for not responding…but then I do beat myself up about silly things.

Are personal relationships suffering due to lack of real life communication? Couples who surround themselves with gadgets and smart phones have the potential to go days without actually speaking to one another out loud, communicating across the room by ipad and iphone, sitting across the table tweeting and taking photographs to share with the world, but perhaps not each other.

Are we heading towards (or are we already in) a reality whereby a romantic dinner will pass by in silence, aside from the sound of keypad clicks; a loving gaze directed downwards towards an illuminated liquid crystal display rather than towards an illuminating companion holding a crystal wine glass?

If that wasn’t enough, businesses are appearing to be struggling to react to the consumer, now that it’s possible to shoot off a complaint instantly in anger to a company, have we actually hindered their ability to respond coherently? With the volume of interactions received, some of which I imagine excessive for the hands dealing with them, are we actually making it easier for us to be ignored, disregarded, anonymous? After all, when did the days of a quick “thanks but no thanks” to a job application disappear? When did the personal (if any) customer service response vanish? Have we made it too easy to be rude? Or do we not realise?

I KNOW that I’m bloody useless at responding on a day to day basis (as I have 1,580 unread emails in my gmail account – although I have ASOS/French Connection/Top Shop to thank for a lot of that), HOWEVER I can not abide poor customer service. I cannot ABIDE tweeting a company 7 times and not getting a response (Sainsburys I’m talking about you), and had to pick up the phone and sit on hold in order to get a response. Nor can I STAND the fact that I booked a table online to take the boys to lunch on a Bank Holiday weekend, and not only was the table not there when we turned up, but we get an email saying “somebody from the restaurant will be in touch…” THREE DAYS AFTER WE WERE GOING (Pizza Hut – if you can’t do a live online booking system – perhaps not do one at all? Or maybe go to a better agency – I can recommend a good one). It FRUSTRATES me that all it should take is keeping on top of your queue on hootsuite/outlook. It INFURIATES me that you pick and chose who you respond to dependant on their comments (ok, I’ll delete that complaint as it makes me look good but I’ll RT that comment about our amazing customer service). It’s YOUR JOB for crying out loud. There’s a surge of dedicated agencies, employed staff for the sole purpose of dealing with social media and customer service. Why are they doing such a bad job?

This is the age where we can interact with the brands we are interested in and passionate about, and they should be engaging us. It’s amazing how a quick response in 140 characters can pacify somebody who has been sent 12 pints of milk with a best before date of the day before. Or a “sorry” for your “network being down” from a mobile company.

Is it because everybody thinks they know what they’re doing are big companies hiring duds/juniors who are way out of their depth – or do people just not give a damn anymore?

And from a point of view of the individual, another subject which needs to be an entire post on it’s own, but we can’t not touch on briefly when we talk about the digital age….how can we ever switch off? Emails coming in on our phones at home, our bosses being able to call us wherever we are. It’s become the norm for people to use their personal mobiles for work. The premise being that these days all packages have free data/minutes, but the underlying fact is, now you are at your works disposal day and night. HOW is that good for anybody? HOW can anybody be commited to their job when they don’t get a chance to let loose and be them.

Even when I go for a run (HA when being the operative word), I’m getting messages popping up on the phone, a ring tone interrupting my Cheryl Cole motivational soundtrack. Yes, I could switch it all off, but I can’t seem to be able too. After all, I get cold sweats on a two hour flight were I don’t have a signal. I get twitchy, like an addict, when my phone isn’t in my hand, when I can’t swipe up and down to refresh one feed or another, and I KNOW I’m no the only one.

We think it’s good that we have everybody at the tip of our fingers, but sometimes, is it a bit too much? Are we in danger of suffocating and not allowing ourselves any private time?


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