Time keeps on slipping, slipping, slipping into the future...
Steve Miller, Fly Like an Eagle
I've been carrying around that title all week. It came to me on Sunday morning, and it involves the idea of how automatically we record and broadcast our lives in the digital age. One of my favorite illustrations of the automaticity of digital living is the digital camera. If you take a picture of my 3 year old niece, she wants to see it immediately. Think about that for a second. She recognizes at 3 that she can immediately see the picture. Just a generation ago when my 18 year old daughter was born, that wasn't possible. As recently as the 1990s, we were still using film, but with a blink of an eye the digital age was upon us.
Yet the digital camera was just the tip of the digital iceberg. Today, we have affordable smart phones, and with that we have social networking, and we can broadcast our lives without so much as a thought. A decade ago, this type of broadcasting was unthinkable. As recently as 5 years ago, the technological underpinnings were in place, yet most of us couldn't afford the equipment to do it. Today, with advent of more sophisticated mobile networks cheap phones, and app stores; it has all come together and we can publish and broadcast with the touch of a finger.Cell Phones/Smart Phones
Part of that automaticity is the idea of always being reachable. Up until about 15 years ago, you had two separate lives. You went to work and you came home and in between, you weren't reachable. Simple as that. As the 90s closed, that changed as more and more people carried cell phones in their pockets. Suddenly we were always reachable and the lines between work and home and getting to and from those places blurred until they were almost completely erased.
Somewhere along the way, we developed smarter phones. Not only could we make phone calls, but we could reach the internet. We could get email and we could access web sites and with that simple leap, what was left of those lines of separation disappeared. Yet even while all these developments came together, something even more profound was happening, and that was the evolution of online social networks.
Mixing in Facebook/Twitter/Foursquare/Qik
As Facebook and Twitter grew in popularity, and there were applications to run these services on our phones, it changed the game completely. Suddenly we could broadcast what we were doing, what we were thinking, who we were with and we could even send pictures. Then services like Qik came along and we could also broadcast video instantly wherever we were whenever we wanted.
More recently location-based services have developed and we can broadcast where we are 24 hours a day. This has vast commercial potential, even if it's a bit annoying in its current implementation (see Fourquare: I really don't care where you are ).
It's all right there in Front of Us
The fact is that even though this is a very recent phenomonon, we have no problem publishing intimate details of our lives from minute to minute throughout the day. We do it automatically. We really don't think much about it anymore. Oh, we fret over privacy issues still (and that's a healthy concern) and we, especially those of us who are older, think about the implications of what we are doing to some extent, but it doesn't stop us. It doesn't slow us down one bit. We just cruise along with it riding that wave of the automaticity of digital living.
Photo by Alex Kerhead on Flickr. Used under the Creative Commons License.