Connection is everything.

“Connection is everything” is the slogan on the The National Broadband Networks (NBN) website. The website continues to say that this plan “is delivering an Australia wide project to upgrade the existing fixed line phone and internet network infrastructure. It is essential for Australia’s transition to a digital future. Fast broadband has the potential to fuel growth and drive improvements to local economies, businesses and homes, bringing new opportunities to the whole country.”

What does this actually mean to you and what does it mean in regards to ourselves and our households in the future? Should we be excited or should we be scared? For me, it still has not reached my area as I live in the Sutherland Shire and it seems to be going to rural areas primarily, but after looking deeper into the NBN plan, I asked myself, “will this plan really change my life?”, but more importantly, “is connection really everything?”. Just from being a young person and observing my surroundings, I think it is safe to say that for us connection really is everything and yes it could change lives. Last week I didn’t have a phone since I just came back from overseas so I had to find other things to do, doing things that would normally involve a smartphone firmly planted in my hand to give me comfort and security from the big bad world. Just by sitting on the train, looking at 90 percent of the people with their faces planted into their phones, laughing, smirking and snickering at their screens as if it were another human being. Most of the time it probably is them connecting with another human being, but they could be anywhere in the world. I thought to myself that this is sort of sad how we have become like this, but at the same time, we all do it, whether we like it or not. Also, I am a Media student with an internship for a digital magazine which means I do most of my work online. Bad connections or dropouts really can make things complicated and with most things turning online, fast connection would make things so much nicer. However, I personally believe that there is a dark-side to being connected all the time and that I am a little scared to be honest where this will take human interaction (or lack of) in the future. Sherry Turkle had some fantastic points about how our constant connection with our devices can really affect our social lives. As Turkle questions “As we expect more from technology, do we expect less from each other?”. Take a look at her Ted talk:

After questioning how this NBN scheme would affect myself and my doings, I turned to Patricia (52, Nurse) again to ask her how the NBN coming to her area would affect her and her household. She told me that as a Nurse she does not really need the internet that much so the current broadband plan she has right now is fine for her. She in fact said that she had no idea about the NBN plan until I came and asked her about it and that she thought that her broadband connection couldn’t really get any better. However, as a mother of 3 and having a husband who works in the IT industry as a computer programmer she says that the introduction of the NBN would definitely affect her household’s workings. She said that she believes that her Husband will be able to get his work done quicker and always will be able to work from home as sometimes he has to go to his office in the city if the connection is poor at home. After being asked about how it will affect the lives of her teenage children she laughed and said that she doesn’t think they could possibly become more anti-social regardless of the NBN coming through. She said that since they each have at least 2 devices, she hardly ever sees them until dinner or when they want food. She thinks that the household is very “connection focused” at the current time, and that the NBN really could segregate the household even more, especially amongst her children. She then added that she might have to bring in some restrictions within the household so that it doesn’t turn her family “into a bunch of zombies”. From hearing this, I was quite curious to know her views solely on the internet, so I showed her Danah Boyd’s description of the internet, “a world populated by people who share idiosyncratic interests and are ready to discuss them at any time, day or night” (Boyd, D 2014, p. 4). She responded with a slightly perplexed expression because she said she wasn’t sure how she feels about it. She said that if she had interests to discuss, she wouldn’t post them on the internet, but she can see how that is how the world is functioning at the moment. She added that she didn’t grow up with it and the world didn’t end because she couldn’t always be connected. She just said that things were different and with a smile said that the only differences is that “kids have thousands of friends now, but I would like to see them count on one hand the amount of true friends they think they have.”

That last statement really touched down with me as I couldn’t help but go back to Sherry Turkles quote “As we expect more from technology, do we expect less from each other?”. Yes, the NBN might bring us faster internet, but it also might bring us the death of social interaction inside and outside the house. So maybe we should reconsider the notion of “connection is everything”.

References:

Boyd, D 2014, ‘It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens’, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Sherry Turkle “Connected, but alone?”: see link in the text

http://www.nbnco.com.au/about-the-nbn.html

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