How to make the most of digital's bittersweet influence on our careers

Before FOMO: life was simpler when we were just faxing each other
Before FOMO: life was simpler when we were just faxing each other

Kirsty Hathaway, editor-in-chief at AnalogFolk London, explores how technology has been a hindrance, but also an enabler, on our careers.

Worryingly, I just think that – without this influx of activity – I would be bored. Under-challenged. Restless

In 2015 – and in the marketing industry in particular – we’re all knee-deep in technology. From the second we wake up until the second we go to sleep, we have continuous stimulus around us. Which, quite frankly, has changed our lives entirely over the last few decades. Personally and professionally. Good and bad.

I think back to when I started my career, a mere twelve years ago, and the processes we had in place included a lot of heavy handling of the fax machine. Yes, we faxed everything. While this may sound supremely archaic to modern day ears, this machine was, in fact, also life-changing in its advent. Add in the fact there was no such thing as a smart phone, no work to be done out of office, no constant communication between colleagues or friends. It’s ridiculous to think now, given how society has evolved us into these always-on beings.

Tabs: the virtual Post-It Notes

Go back even further. Back to those days pre-email, pre-mobile phones, pre-Skype. Pre-Google! How on earth did anything get done? Letter-writing, posting said letter, trying to catch people on the landline. A job that today would take us minutes, back then, took days – weeks even. As someone who borders on the line of impatience, someone who enjoys working at the rate of knots, multitasks across five projects at once, never has less than ten tabs open (to me, they’re the virtual post-its of the digital world), this prospect petrifies me. Worryingly, I just think that – without this influx of activity – I would be bored. Under-challenged. Restless.

Have we, have I, taken this ‘always-on’ approach to life too far?

So, from a personal point of view, I can’t dispute the fact that the advent of digital has brought so many positives. Perhaps a side effect of being impatient is that I am an incredibly curious being. Technology has allowed me to seek any information, no matter how random, no matter how irrelevant, in mere seconds. And I am obsessed by it. I have WhatsApp groups with interesting friends sharing amazing content. I have other WhatsApp groups with funny friends sharing ridiculous YouTube videos. I am on Facebook and Twitter lapping up the breaking news, the random tit bits, the unique insights and debates. I don’t know something? Google knows.

However, this begs the question: Have we, have I, taken this ‘always-on’ approach to life too far?

Phubbing is a real thing

Picture the scene, it’s Saturday, it’s been a long slog of a week, you go for lunch with your nearest and dearest to catch up, laugh and enjoy good conversation.  You sit down, you take a look around at the reams of people that are doing the exact same thing as you’re doing – their phones are in their hands and they are tapping away. They are phubbing. Yup, it has a name – it’s that common. When did snubbing your real-life friends, in their presence, in favour of texting/ emailing/ Facebooking/ Tweeting/ WhatsApping another become socially acceptable? I don’t know when, but it certainly seems to have happened.

Digital created this fear of missing out. Previously, ignorance was bliss

Staying in on a Friday night used to be a treat. But then FOMO was invented. I use the term ‘invented’ because digital created this fear of missing out. Previously, ignorance was bliss. There were no real time channels to witness all the ‘fun’ that was being had without you.

To add to that, I can’t remember the last time when I had a night in to myself where I did just that; had it to myself. Without checking emails, sending messages, browsing social media. Through having our noses buried in our multitude of devices, have we totally eradicated the space that we used to give ourselves to think? To be inspired by the analogue world around us. Is being ‘always on’ – like our work – ironically, having a knock-on effect on our ability to think creatively?

Digital detox

So, this advent of digital – a resource that’s invaluable when it comes to educating us, inspiring us, feeding our curiosity and making life easier – has this ridiculously clever and life-changing phenomenon actually made life worse? So prevalent is digital oversaturation that ‘digital detoxes’, ‘social media sabbaticals’, holidays dedicated to no digital stimulation, no WiFi, ‘no signal’ is now a thing. Essentially, we are paying someone else to take away the facilities that we spend a great deal of money to have access to in the first place. Is this irony not lost on anybody else?

Despite the downsides, I still say: Give Me Digital Everything. I still say: Feed My Curiosity. Let our greedy minds – thirsty for information, facts, entertainment, enjoyment, fulfilment – be quenched. I’m more efficient. I see more things. I do more things. I know more things. Hell, I stay in touch with more people from many different walks of life. The value in that is unquantifiable for my own happiness in life.

And, in actual fact, I hope we will learn. Our planet burst onto the scenes around 4.5 billion years ago, so comparatively speaking, technology is incredibly new. It’s exciting. It allows us to be always on, yes, but it also allows us freedom. Parents can have flexible work hours and still be able to do their job and have a successful career. You need not be in the same room as colleagues to effectively collaborate. If used properly, the digital world allows us the freedom to be more flexible, more productive, better at our jobs, more inspired, more educated. Let’s just not allow it to take over and pull the ‘real world’ from under our feet.

Find out if you are letting digital take control of your life by taking our summer #stressquiz

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