Wednesday, February 15, 2017

How technology disrupts human behaviour

Some new technologies make a significant impact on our culture. When mobile phones arrived, it changed the way people interacted with each other.
But the internet, social and apps have impacted in bizarre ways that confounds even sociologists. Here are some changes that surprise and sometimes scare us.

Sharing our homes with strangers
While, as children, we were told not to speak to strangers, today, we find young girls with seeming nonchalance share their Ola and Uber cab rides with complete strangers. And they don’t seem to have any complaints.
On Airbnb, we rent a part of our home to total strangers. Even all-women families let out a room to unknown people, on daily rent and even serve meals for a fee.
Not long ago, we treated anyone who rang our doorbell with caution. But now thanks to OLX and Quikr, strangers visit our homes, check out living rooms and even have a coffee before buying our stuff. Strangers have come a long way, thanks to digital changing the way we “trust” people.

Losing the moment for the memories
Whether it’s a restaurant or a visit to a hill station, people are keen to take pictures to share on WhatsApp, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. The truth is - the experience of the moment is lost. Instead of seeing the world through our eyes, we’re doing it through the lens. Instead of enjoying the moment with the people around us, we seem to be seeking elusive happiness in a virtual world.

Lonely in a connected world
When the family is out for dinner, members are animatedly snapping pictures for social sharing, furtive glances are exchanged but hardly any conversation.
The silence is torturous. The whole scene seems bizarre. We know more about where our friends dine during the weekend and less about what our family likes.
The social compulsion to keep up with what’s happening online with our friends and family is detaching us from real world relationships.
The phones have led to a visible decrease in the outdoor activities and real world interaction of children. The bedroom culture where kids have access to various devices has led to the privatisation and individualisation of family life.

Buying online like crazy
Our buying habits have drastically changed in the recent past. While in the real world, we take time to consider a purchase, on Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal we don’t bat an eyelid while ordering goods worth thousands of rupees.
There’s a huge difference in user behaviour on the app and website. There is a sense of urgency that mobile apps impart on the new path to purchase. Users spend less time evaluating stuff on an app vs the offline world.
We tend to do think faster and think less when on an app. It’s easier to sway such a user with extra discounts. The flash sales and the one-hour deals are baits to keep users hooked to the app.
The audience is a bit captive here with dedicated viewing and no comparison options. The convenience of mobile devices and availability of internet 24X7 has shaped new consumer buying habits.

Short attention spans
It’s a fact that our attentions spans have become shorter over the past decade, the multiplicity of mediums being a culprit. Since the medium of news consumption is going the digital way, the size of devices make it difficult to read for long and consequently, have contributed to changing our reading habits permanently.
We scan news, we don’t read them any longer. The book stores and private libraries that dotted our local landscape have long disappeared while the iPads, Kindles and iPhones have taken over.

While these rapid changes happen right under our nose, we’re oblivious to the potential privacy and personal data risks that we could encounter soon. The way we view our privacy offline is completely varied with online privacy, although the trace we leave on social networks is permanent.
Our notions of privacy and confidentiality have undergone drastic changes.
One thing is sure, privacy may in future may well become a major issue for governments and the people. We have a need for strong policies and frameworks to protect our privacy and personal data, the sooner the better.

Until then, I’m accepting all the terms and conditions on my Bla Bla app.
Rajasekar KS' article was originally published in The Economic Times here

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