In all history of the mankind information flow has never circulated as fast as nowadays. Immediately accessible, unlimitedly duplicable, in all forms and shapes. Around 4,68 billion people communicate through their phones today (2019 figures). United Nations already talks about « Digital Natives » in their stats. And yet…. people have never been as lonely and communicating as poorly as they do nowadays.
According to McKinsey study, the global data flows increased by 45 times between 1980 and 2014, and those global flows have a direct GDP impact over the world (2,8 Trillion Dollars from data flows, larger impact than goods trade!). Has the well-being improved therefore ? You know the answer…
People never looked as often for the wellness services as they do today. Wellness tourism accounts for about 4,5 trillion dollars worldwide. Never have I ever seen so many yoga classes opening here and there across big cities.
1. How today’s digital world changes people’s well-being?
900 million individuals have international connections on social media. Everything has gone digital, starting from the business platforms and apps ending with people’s mindset, almost comforting a “Black mirror” vision of the world. Facebook users population is greater than China’s. On average, people have almost 8 social media accounts. And still, the very basic human questions have not been solved.
Have a look at these stats : “An estimated 46.6 million U.S. adults struggle with mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorder, according to the National Institute of Mental Health”.
Also, a research study published in Harvard Business Review shows “60% of people have experienced symptoms of mental health issues in the past year”.
Furthermore, “half of millennial (defined in this survey as 23-38 years old) and 75% of Gen-Zer (18-22 years old) respondents have quit a job partially due to mental health reasons.”. (Link)
How come our society ends up so empty and depressed despite being all the time busy and full of everything? Entertainment industry has never been so rich whereas we read appalling facts about how everybody consumes antidepressants or consults psychologists.
Is there something we have never seen coming ? An auto-trapping crisis ? One thing is sure, social and economic trends now evolve under rhythm of the digital revolution. People make money, exist, learn, make connections and entertain themselves on internet and through internet. I just don’t want to imagine the global worldwide depression if internet is cut by any circumstance such as a massive solar irruption or a war. Think of how vulnerable we have become as a specie.
Add to this how lonely this has made us….
2. Loneliness despite digital revolution
According to a survey performed by the Royal Society for Public Health among 1479 teens in early-2017, the Loneliness was the last topic that the social media helped improving in their lives and that scored the least in the overall results of life improvement through social media.
The Economist/KFF research confirms some of recent findings about high levels of loneliness. A recent Cigna survey points out that “nearly half of Americans always or sometimes feel alone (46%) or left out (47%). Fully 54% said they always or sometimes feel that no one knows them well”.
This does not only apply to the U.S., “a third of Britons said that they often or very often feel lonely. Nearly half of Britons over 65 consider the television or a pet their main source of company. In Japan, more than half a million people under 40 haven’t left their house or interacted with anyone for at least six months. In Canada, 28% of people are solo households! Across the European Union, it’s 34%. (Link to the source article).
To sum up, people are not happier or less lonely than they have been before digital revolution. Worse, not only all social media and online entertainment industry keeps you from spending time in real life with real friends, digital platforms enable new ways of consumption and therefore shape people’s relationships around those habits: people go out based on events referenced on web, buy things based on what they see on internet, talk about things they read in their notifications. They simply keep from establishing substantial links and instead mirror what’s on internet, the Black Mirror. What is this if not a Mirror Land ?
This is a crucial point since societies see their mentality shaped based on the language and tools they use : having a universal language of the web totally conditions one to a unique mode of thinking. All ideas people come up for a business relates with internet platforms or websites, all solutions companies adopt to solve their efficiency and performance issues relate to the digital ones.
And this is where the robber shows its face…
3. The robbery behind digital revolution
Imagine a situation where someone makes up a plan to to get rich and by some misfortune ends up robbing himself to accomplish his own plan. This is the situation modern society faces.
First, you are stolen your identity and privacy since you have stepped in this journey of a web user. It is just a “by default” condition, there is absolutely no guarantee at all your data remains private, a simple course on cyber security (check out moocs on this topic) will tell you that. But the game does not end there. It gets worse because you still need an identity to exist, so you adopt a digital one which would reflect you from the best possible angle, or at least how you would wish seeing yourself ideally.
Have a look at some Facebook profiles where people post stunning pics of themselves in a five star restaurant and a month later they publish a virtual wallet to help them escape misery and homeless situation. Of course, shit happens, however, this clearly leaves a food for thought on how far has our virtual society gone… You get stolen your vision of yourself and of the world, that’s the worst thing that can happen.
Secondly, you get stolen your freedom of self-determination. In many countries you no longer have choice to declare your revenues for taxes than through an online platform. You receive your bills, your taxes, results of your blood analysis, bank statements etc. to your email ! And you certainly don’t want to miss any of this since the punishment is well known for that… And again, the game is not over as it gets worse shall you miss an outstanding discount opportunity of a “Black Friday” – you will blame yourself and others will just laugh at you. A paranoia.
Last, but not the least, you get stolen the most precious thing you could ever have : your time. RescueTime says people spend on average 3 hours and 15 minutes a day and pick up their phone 59 times in average. Think of how much time you use your phone, tablet or computer for just doing “nothing” – setting up or installing something, typing a bad search query, checking, clicking, listing, unlocking, erasing, pulling out notifications, switching between tabs, typing a password or swiping something. At least 20 to 30 minutes a day. This makes around 180 hours per year. Hence in 50 years you spend over an entire year on a device just doing nothing. Add to this the huge amount of time spent on social media, emails, etc.. and you will get 13,5 years spent on a digital media (of which 12,5 spent on digital media (6 hours a day in average according to today’s statistics ) and one year as just mentioned).
This is certainly a good food for thought and I suppose a good reason to ask ourselves a question what do we really value in our society: technological progress or human intrinsic wellbeing?
Keep on touch and follow up this topic in the next article about wellbeing to find clues and new ideas in this field.