Is it Possible to be Too Connected?

My father, who I admire, lives by a piece of advice his grandfather gave him – everything in moderation.  I’ve grown to understand and apply that way of thinking to my own life because I realize the wisdom in those three words.  It’s okay to have a piece of pie for dessert, but if I have a large piece of pie with three scoops of ice cream every single night after dinner, eventually I am going to suffer some negative effects in my health.  Even things that are good for us can turn harmful if we overindulge in them.  Exercise is an example.  It’s very beneficial for our bodies in many ways, but if we overdo it, we can injure ourselves or even reverse the benefits.  So, with my great grandfather’s motto in mind – everything in moderation – it is possible for us to be too connected from a technological standpoint.

As technology has grown and advanced, we have become more and more connected.  This connectedness provides us with a plethora of wonderful benefits.  I love it that my children are all just a phone call or text away.  It gives me a sense of comfort in knowing that they can call 911 if they are in an emergency situation.  I can purchase items online and have them shipped to me by the next day.  When my father traveled to Ireland , I could stay in contact with him and know he was well and enjoying himself.  I live in the north, and we get some terrible snow storms.  Since I have a company issued laptop, I can work from home when it isn’t safe to be on the roads.  There are so many advantages to living in a super-connected world.

Along with our ability to stay so interconnected comes some problems that are very real and very dangerous.  Our personal and financial information is at risk.  Our personal preferences can be known even without us realizing it.  We can be targets of those wanting to steal our identities, our financial wealth and our consumer preferences.  Mary Chayko, in her book Superconnected, writes, “The rise and proliferation of the internet, digital media, and ICTs represent the potential for individuals to live richer lives but also lives that are more closely scrutinized and surveiled.  The harnessing of collective knowledge and superconnectedness yields infinite possibilities, but the outcomes are unclear, uncertain” (p. 215).  In his book NET SMART:  How to Thrive Online, Howard Rheinhold writes, “Privacy-related issues such as identity theft, state-sponsored surveillance, and behavioral data mining that surmises more about your preferences than you’d prefer anyone to know are the subjects of daily headlines, and touch every aspect of our lives” (2012, p. 239).

Technology is being used to influence how people think and how they act.  Jonathan Zitrain, professor of Law at Harvard Law School, in his talk Alure of the Algorithm and Why We Should Be Aware, described how the Facebook algorithm can be used to predict relationships between people even before they connect on Facebook.  This is just one of the many examples of how being so connected has the potential to cross over into intrusiveness.

Can we be too connected?  Is it possible that our abilities to find out information about one another has become so advanced that we just don’t have the ability to stay as secure and private as we want and need to be?  There are ways to enhance our security, but it requires us to stay vigilant.  How do I, personally, apply my great grandfather’s motto of “everything in moderation” to this situation?  I do believe we are on a fast course to being so interconnected that we have created a world that has some new security issues for us.  I suggest we do everything we can to educate ourselves and others about the possible pitfalls of this interconnectedness that is our reality.  Then let’s take what we know and teach others about how they can keep their information safe.  

Posted on September 23, 2018, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I agree with your words of caution in your conclusion. While I do feel more and more individuals have become a bit smarter about allowing 3rd party apps [commonly in the form of quizzes or memes] on their Twitter and Facebook pages, I also know of other populations who are willing to share anything and everything. You’ll read more about those “always on” issues in Turkle’s book Alone Together, but other than a call to action I don’t think she offers a list of best practices or recommendations for how to help others, other than parent to child. But that’s leaving out all sorts of adult populations who are, more commonly than not, new to so many technologies.

  2. “Everything in moderation” is a good rule to live by. I know more of my co-workers are implementing “no screens at the table” rules at home, but I also know more of us are allowing cell phone use in the classroom for the very reason you write about, we are so connected to and dependent on it.

    Your post made me consider what happens when the network fails. I was recently at an outdoor concert, and we had to evacuate because of lightning in the area. During that time, cell phone reception was quite poor, probably because you had several thousand people trying to get an Uber ride at the same time. What happens, though, if we have a major cyber security threat? Is the network going to be there when we need it most?

  3. I agree with your principle of “everything in moderation” and that we’re far too connected. I often wonder how we are suppose to use the Internet in moderation with are increasing number of online responsibilities. I am often on my computer all day. I work remotely from home so I don’t even have to commute most days. I can roll out of bed and just get straight to work. Between my online remote job and this remote online program, I can be on my computer all day. And that doesn’t even count the social media websites that I like to visit in my offtime. I don’t feel addicted, but I do feel my online time is a bit too much. It is not good for my health to be staring at a computer screen all day.

    However, I struggle with knowing how to balance my online time. I know I am using my time responsibly because I am working and I am going to school, but sometimes it’s just too much. I’m not entirely sure what a healthy solution or balance is, but I always try to turn off most of my online responsibilities over the weekend. I don’t look at my work emails, messages, or anything. During the week, I also try and get up and walk around after working for 45 minutes or an hour.

  4. Hi Jeffrey,
    I think as long as we are cognizant of the fact that we could be spending too much time “connected” to the online world, we are probably going to make attempts to have a good balance. You bring up some good points, though. I also work on a computer all day. But, I try to make sure I also get exercise and disconnect from the online world as much as possible too.
    Thanks for your thoughts!

  5. Dr. Pignetti,
    Where I work, we have a whole department for Information Security. They do a great job with teaching us how to be cyber-safe. They even send out fake phishing emails. If we accidentally click on them, we receive another email that teaches us how to watch for this type of attack. I feel like I have learned a lot from our IT Security team, and I even apply some of it to my private internet usage.

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