Modern Communications: or the paradox of how being interconnected makes us have little to say to one another

Years ago I went on holiday for 2 weeks and didn’t bring my phone. It was about 2011 or 12 but looking back – it didn’t seem that big a deal but it is nowadays.

The reason I remember it is because when I came back home, my boss (whom I was not on good terms with at the time – or now) left a few voicemails. Taking 2 weeks holidays was a bit unusual and in my job, there were things that if I was not there to do them then they would be done wrong. Handover? Who bothers with that?

So hearing my boss leave several very urgent sounding voicemails made me think that I was in deep shit. After the third or forth she explained that she was calling me not to tell me that I was resposible for a huge problem at work and that I could expect my P45 when I get into work ASAP! Instead it was that a colleague had committed suicide – what a relief I thought – that’s all right then.

That’s a true story and an honest impression of my immediate feelings. Who said that I was a nice guy? But the remarkable thing is that I didn’t have a phone for 2 weeks and was ok with it. I think that I left it in the car by mistake and intended to bring it but not having it didn’t wreck the holiday.

These days, I get anxious if I don’t have my phone on me at all times. I check it far too often and even though I don’t get too much contact with people or even junk emails and all that – there’s enough to keep my eye fastened to it.

I’m sat in Heathrow now and I would reckon that about 50% of the people are connected someway to their phones, laptops or both. I used to like people watching in places like this. I just had a quick chat today with an Italian family who had just arrived from Lagos, Nigeria where they live and an Indian woman travelling back home to Washington DC – there’s a world of different people out there if you just put down your phone.

But those with their heads glued to a screen – not interesting at all – boring – lifeless and in someways like lost souls, ghoulish floaters who are here in body but not in mind, passing through with their mind on a better place – a place with sepia filtered grams of better looking people having a humble bragging pensive stare-fest at how awesome the internet it.

Meanwhile, I’m left thinking that I should either pick a side – fully sign up for the digital future or quit it altogether. I’ve tried half measures but the social media or screen world is just so addictive and (as I found out) the FOMO is that there’s news or something going on and you don’t know about it.

Humans are very happy to ignore something that they want to but it’s harder to ignore that perhaps you’ve received something from someone about something about someone else who is somewhere and like and like that and someone likes your comment.

I’m not a popular guy (and that’s before people know how I think that people killing themselves is a good outcome for my work situation) and I made a tragic mistake of limiting all my facebook messages to just one person who subsequently quit FB – so over the years my posts on “just enjoying a nice slice of toast” or whatever became less frequent as the feedback loop of likes and comments stalled.

So more importantly, back on topic: why should someone who has enough work going on, has a great family and not enough time for all of his interests, really care about the outside world that much? Does it really matter or would it if say, I only had social media access on something like a daily update?  I could read that in 10 minutes and work out that nothing much had happened and get back to living my life.

The paradox is that the more connected we our the less we truly speak with each other. And that we can confide easily in strangers.  I’ve been going through big changes in my job situation. Changes that I’m leading but can’t speak to too many people for advice or support – even mentioning it to some people is sort of taboo, or at least they aren’t able to provide a sensible sounding board for advice. It’s good being able to rely on the

Likewise with our social media lives – we’ll like something on facebook or LinkedIn but won’t chat to someone on the bus. It’s a funny world for the Xennial – one foot in to the future and one foot in the past.

Maybe I just need to get back home and soften up a bit – London this week has made me a bit hard, bitter and misanthropic.

Thanks, GFF


  1. I’m not sure I could go full longterm cold-turkey on the social media, by which I mean Whatsapp, Twitter and Slack. I use these regularly (respectively) for my family/friends, FIRE/investments reading and matched betting chatting. Facebook I could delete tomorrow (but need to keep it for family), same with Linkedin. I’ve never used Instagramm or Snapchat. I’d be quite happy not watching youtube videos (the few I do watch are music videos).

    I relish the time when I’m at the gym, as for a couple of hours, I am disconnected and uncontactable.

    That said, even without my phone, I’m an anti-social traveller – instead of looking at my phone, I’ll have my nose in a book or my Kindle!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Definitely made us all disconnected… sadly… yet also useful on holiday when you inevitably lose whoever you’re with, or it’s convenient to do different things for a bit, or if you’re traveling alone, to feel safer. I’ve only had a smartphone for a year. I literally caved in because people assume you can be contacted by Messenger etc. and I was sick of repeating myself and sounding like I was inconveniencing others!


  3. You’ll also have to consider the example you present to your children when they are a bit older.


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