The media response to a new Ofcom report warns of addiction and isolation. But the internet is here to stay—so let's let it bring us togetherby Kate Devlin / August 3, 2018 / Leave a comment
You’re reading this online—the same way that two-thirds of adults in the UK like to keep up-to-date with the news. More than likely, you’re reading it on a mobile device—now the main way of accessing the Internet. The desktop is fast becoming a relic.
And, in all likelihood, you’re reading this on your commute: seven out of ten people use their smartphones as they travel.
Ofcom’s recent Communication Market Report—an annual statistical survey into developments in the technology sector—paints a picture of an ‘always on’ society: increasing demand and expectation of continuous connection via smartphone and tablet.
The immediate press reaction was one warning of addiction and isolation. The 78 per cent of people in the UK with a smartphone, Ofcom reports, check their phone on average every 12 minutes, within five minutes of waking up in the morning and within five minutes of falling asleep at night.
Friendships across the world
Warnings that increased technology use will lead to social isolation are well-intentioned but misleading.
The smartphones we use every day are fundamentally designed for communication and we are definitely still using them that way, even if voice calls are declining (two minutes per month less than in 2016).
Messaging services are on the rise and average data use has soared. We are almost always a sentence, a word or an emoji away from a friend on the other side of the globe.
“To remain offline is to be left behind.”
The reassuring notification of a message reminds us that someone is thinking of us. Video calls mean that family in another country can watch their grandchildren grow. Relationships are formed online; communities are forged.
Any censure of today’s youth being phone-obsessed should be tempered with the knowledge that we need to be connected to function in this world. To remain offline is to be left behind.
The pervasiveness of the Internet and the rise in e-commerce mean that the services we depend on now require internet access. Local councils refer people to their online portals, tax returns and benefit applications are processed digitally, and two thirds of adults do their banking online.
A disconnected nation?
This is where we should be concerned: the increase and dependency on online services mean the…