Smart phones, network glitches and people behaviour…

The Badger recently visited the Christmas Market and ice rink at the UK’s 1000 year old Winchester Cathedral. The crowds were shoulder to shoulder, and the atmosphere was great. It was immensely enjoyable, with only one thing marring the experience for the Badger and many others – people using their smart phones!

Here’s two examples that irritated many and got strangers grumbling to each other. The first was people in busy queues shuffling forwards very slowly because they were only concentrating on their smart phone, only to then stop suddenly to type into their phone before starting off again. The second was people blocking the front of stalls by taking pictures and then using their phones to search for alternative products and prices. The perpetrators were oblivious to their impact on others, even when polite but direct comments were made. On the drive home, the Badger cogitated on two questions. Is technology making people less considerate, and do people know how to function without their smart phone? The Badger decided to think further.

And then by coincidence a few days later, O2’s data network was out for a day in the UK and some other countries! The Badger’s an O2 customer and worked around any personal inconvenience. Twitter and social media, however, erupted with rants from people who seemed happy not to do anything to mitigate their inconvenience. A plumber apparently said he couldn’t get to his next job because his phone’s satnav wasn’t working. It’s a sad day when someone would rather just complain than find an old-fashioned paper map to use. One newspaper told people to ‘get a grip’, but it’s not clear if our permanently connected generations know what ‘get a grip’ means anymore!

The O2 glitch illustrates the critical importance of data networks in today’s global, anytime, anywhere world. The glitch also exposed that many people would rather rant about it than try to mitigate their own inconvenience. Glitches caused by software bugs, equipment failures, or human error will always happen, but it looks like society’s biggest vulnerability may not be the technology but the changed behaviour of people when the technology is unavailable. It feels like as our increasingly utopian reliance on technology rises, then so does selfishness, willingness to blame, inconsiderate behaviour, and personal inaction.

O2’s glitch won’t be the last we’ll see. Just imagine if a glitch knocked out driver-less cars and all people did was fold their arms and complain rather than try to mitigate their own inconvenience. That would not be healthy for society. Hmm. Has grey and rainy weather influenced the Badger’s mindset? Perhaps…but a large malt whiskey might have played an influential role.

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