There’s an old saying that cleanliness is next to godliness. As a child I was never quite sure what it meant but I always presumed that if one kept clean they would look better in the eyes of God. Today the word ‘cleanliness’ could be replaced with ‘connectedness’ because many people seem to believe that being connected at all times has given them godlike powers – another interpretation of ‘godliness?'
My attention was drawn to a recent article by one Jay L Zagorsky (a.k.a. The Eclectic Economist) who believed that constant connectedness was a ‘bad idea.’ And he had a lot of good reasons for coming to that conclusion, most that I would concur with.
With the news that Facebook is pushing for low cost Wi-Fi across India and Google’s Project Loon blanketing Indonesia with high-altitude balloon assisted Wi-Fi comes the realization that soon there will be no place on Earth free from a wireless connection of some sort.
It is a well-established belief that bringing internet access to the masses dramatically improves a developing nation’s GDP so you won’t see any objections from the governments of those nations. Zagorsky’s point was more about those of us that have become, well, addicted to being connected. It may be too early to see what long term effect this may have on us mere mortals, but the indications are not great.
For him, while climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest peak with a group, came the constant annoyance of messages beeping and loud talking calls by others at a time and place where serenity and appreciation of the environment should have been paramount. For the one that was trying to save a failing business deal and the other concerned about his American Express card balance, perhaps they should have stayed at home and left everyone else in peace. So much for mobile phone etiquette.
Another point raised by a guide on the same climb was that people, confident in the knowledge that their mobile device will divulge their location in time of trouble or allow them to make an emergency call from anywhere at any time, have become cocky and fearless (a false state of security that may even bring them closer to God)!
But it’s the fact that with connectivity comes the inability to escape – from work, from social media, from emails, from messages, from anything. Our lives have become so inter-meshed with the internet and all its wonders that we can barely survive a minute without it. What’s worse is that we inflict our lives on those around us, even on those that may have resisted the over-powering urge themselves to be ever-connected.
The reason we have weekends, evenings at home with family and vacations is to get away from work and recharge the batteries, but being connected all but prevents this happening. As Zagorsky points out: “Few people work 20-hour days because after so many hours of work it is difficult to think clearly. Most major religious faiths have a day of rest or Sabbath each week when people are encouraged to cease working to provide a time to recharge. Additionally, most jobs provide for vacation time, which gives people a concentrated period away from work. Being connected everywhere means there is no vacation, Sabbath or downtime.” Ah, we are back the godliness thing again.
Taking into account what Zagorsky says and following his suggestions that perhaps we should have areas designated as ‘no-connect’ zones not only for our sanity but also to improve our productivity, let alone lifestyle and even godliness. How long will it be before we see the results of constant connectivity? How many psychological and social issues will come out before governments are forced to step in and switch us off, forcibly?
Could we see a day when connectivity is taxed so highly, or we are only allowed to connect at certain times or in special areas, like smokers? After all, the signs are not dissimilar. Addiction may be too strong a word and suggesting that institutions like Facebook will replace the church may sound far-fetched. Worse still may be the charge that telcos, by providing the connectivity, become ‘drug dealers’ or ‘ministers of the new faith.’ Mon dieu, I hear my French friends cry. Oh oh, I’ve slipped back to godliness again!