Thought for the day:The 24/7 nightmare

Simon Moores looks into the ever-growing Internet culture and asks whether the communications revolution has improved the quality...

Simon Moores looks into the ever-growing Internet culture and asks whether the communications revolution has improved the quality of life or just made it more complicated.

A survey published this month revealed that of all the European nations, the British lead the most unvaried, boring and hamster-like existence.

Not surprisingly, I find reading the Sunday newspaper a depressing experience. The hanging threat of a cyanide gas attack on the Underground adds a Russian roulette feeling to the overcrowded daily misery of the Central Line.

Should you happen to survive the queue of muggers waiting patiently by the cashpoint outside the station and make it safely home again before dinner, you'll then find that the stock market has ended the day at its 1973 level and that some influential Westminster figure is suggesting that party membership should share equal weight with social geography and A-levels results in considering the award of university places.

The IT press is hardly more encouraging. "Internet blamed for marriage break-ups", shouts one headline. Apparently, meeting a new lover online and having an "obsessive" interest in pornography are the two top problems cited in many Internet-related divorce cases.

Of course, the other principal cause, which many of us will be familiar with, is an excessive preoccupation with e-mail, which isn't so much an obsession, as a constant need to catch up with the last 500 e-mails that you haven't read, mostly from colleagues and for some, occasionally, from new friends in the expanding universe of Internet chat rooms.

Yesterday, I found myself sitting in the cockpit of my rather ancient plane clutching a mug of hot coffee and regarding the circle of fog surrounding the farm-strip runway on which it was parked. While I waited for the weather to lift, I considered that when the aircraft was built, man had not yet walked on the moon - even the arrival of fax machine was a decade away. People worked a five-day week and the expression 24/7 had little or no meaning at all.

Did the communications revolution really add to the quality of life, or did it make it more complicated? Many of my friends remember what it was like to live and work before the personal computer arrived and are asking if enslavement to the demands of a wired society is equal to the benefits. Within a few years, communication and instant messaging will be constant, and pocket-based experience.

Is this what we really want - 24-hour pubs and Sunday trading - or would many of us prefer rather less interruption and a little more time with the family and friends?

Of course, there's no going back and you can't halt progress, but did anyone ever ask?

What is your view?
How can we reclaim our freedom? >> reserves the right to edit and publish answers on the Web site. Please state if your answer is not for publication.

Zentelligence Setting the world to rights with the collected thoughts and opinions of the futurist writer, broadcaster and Computer Weekly columnist Simon Moores.

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