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Are wearables going to make a social problem even worse?


It's fair to say that mobile devices have changed the way we interact with others in our daily life - most would agree that our relationships have changed due to the ever-present temptation of pulling out your phone. With wearables set to boom over the coming year, do we have a real problem on our hands?

I'm probably one of the worst. If I look at my phone usage statistics on a day when i'm away from the office - regardless of what i'm doing - they tell a worrying tale. Screen on time, number of wakes, battery usage, most popular apps... they don't make for pleasant reading, painting a picture of a day spent reading email, keeping up with social networks, messing around with apps, playing the odd game and generally switching off from the world around. In reality, I suspect most of us are guilty of it - surfing around on the phone or tablet while the TV is on, reading tweets while the other half is doing some shopping, picking up the phone at the dinner table perhaps - it's a difficult temptation to resist.

Of course, if we're all doing it, then we don't necessarily notice it as easily - it becomes part of the daily pattern of life. "I've got to send my 'Pocket Trains' off or I don't complete the daily task", just because two of you are doing it in the same place at the same time, it probably doesn't make that a valid social situation, does it...? :)

Posted Image


Wearables add an interesting new slant on this situation. Take a Smartwatch such as my beloved Pebble. When i'm out and about, it means I can keep up with what's happening on my phone (and therefore in my 'online life') without getting it out of my pocket. I'm not sure if it means I use my phone less so i'm more likely to be sociable, or because I feel it's easier to check and less intrusive in a conversation, i'm actually putting more of a social block in place. Have you sat down in a bar with someone with a Smartwatch? The reality is that if they keep glancing at their watch to read notifications (or even if it's just constantly buzzzzzzzzzzzing), it's probably even more intrusive than if they had pulled out their phone.

Posted Image


The same thing applies to Google Glass and 'Smartglasses', perhaps to an even worse degree. When a notification comes in on Glass, a sound is played into your head and it's incredibly tempting just to raise your head to turn on the display and quickly read what's happening. Again, probably incredibly distracting for the person you're with and a whole new social barrier.

As Smartwatches and Smartglasses gain more functionality, this temptation will probably increase. I'm pretty interested to see where wearable technology goes in the near future because I suspect that we'll see the information dissemination that we're seeing increase already happen in new places. What about a smart necklace? Smart bracelet? Smart fridge? Smart table? Certainly more subtle and less obvious Smartglasses and Smartwatches from just about everyone. There's an information epidemic coming our way.

I'm really interested to hear what you guys think about this. Is it actually a problem at all or is it just that we're 'living in the future' and this is what it looks like? If we're all aware that technology is encroaching on our daily lives all the time is that enough to be able to push it back and ensure that we can still master the ancient art of conversation?

As a serial offender when it comes to mobile distractions I would like to think that as new technology emerges we can learn to use it appropriately. :) What do you think?

About the author

PaulOBrien's Photo
Paul O'Brien founded MoDaCo in 2002 as a site focused on Windows Smartphones and has grown it since then by concentrating on providing a friendly community for both experienced and beginner mobile enthusiasts.

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6 Comments

Social what?
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Davidosky99
Jan 24 2014 01:48 PM

social life.

i agree totally with you

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glossywhite
Feb 01 2014 04:46 PM

Do you really need to ask? Yes, of course they will - people are obsessed enough with devices as it is.

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Interesting question, but in some ways I think you are asking the wrong people.  I think that people on here are much more likely to be in the "hell yes" crowd compared to the population as a whole.  However, I'm a a bit of an exception to my rule!

 

When I am socialising, the phone is on silent and in a pocket / bag.  If I want to use it as part of a conversation (looking something up), out it comes.  I have an answering service on my phone, so there is no communication method that can't wait for me to check when it is convenient to me.  The people around me don't cope so well with being "put on hold".

 

Personally I love technology for being able to find out information, read the news, etc. when and where I want to.  I don't have a landline any more.  I don't check my phone every few minutes for messages.  When watching TV I do like looking up relevant info on my phone or tablet, as I find it makes the program a bit more involving when I understand context or references better.

 

The idea of a Google Glass doesn't interest me at all (at the moment - never say never).  I see them as being great for people doing repairs of stuff, so they can see manuals / diagrams whilst their hands are busy / dirty.  Sure there are other specific times and places where they are going to be really useful, but not in everyday life for most people for now.

 

The Smart Watch could be interesting with the right app (not sure what yet, maybe basic directions when cycling or walking).

 

Maybe I'm one of those oddities in what I want.  I like the benefits that technology can give me, in the ways I want it.  I'm writing this on a PC, as I'd find it a pain to do on a phone or tablet - for me they are good for consumption, and small amounts of creation (a short reply to emails or forums is fine).

 

Edit : Just chose the "Follow" option for this thread, and found it interesting that the only option for notifications is "instantly".  No option to get a daily update email!

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glossywhite
Apr 01 2014 12:33 AM

Interesting question, but in some ways I think you are asking the wrong people.  I think that people on here are much more likely to be in the "hell yes" crowd compared to the population as a whole.  However, I'm a a bit of an exception to my rule!

 

When I am socialising, the phone is on silent and in a pocket / bag.  If I want to use it as part of a conversation (looking something up), out it comes.  I have an answering service on my phone, so there is no communication method that can't wait for me to check when it is convenient to me.  The people around me don't cope so well with being "put on hold".

 

Personally I love technology for being able to find out information, read the news, etc. when and where I want to.  I don't have a landline any more.  I don't check my phone every few minutes for messages.  When watching TV I do like looking up relevant info on my phone or tablet, as I find it makes the program a bit more involving when I understand context or references better.

 

The idea of a Google Glass doesn't interest me at all (at the moment - never say never).  I see them as being great for people doing repairs of stuff, so they can see manuals / diagrams whilst their hands are busy / dirty.  Sure there are other specific times and places where they are going to be really useful, but not in everyday life for most people for now.

 

The Smart Watch could be interesting with the right app (not sure what yet, maybe basic directions when cycling or walking).

 

Maybe I'm one of those oddities in what I want.  I like the benefits that technology can give me, in the ways I want it.  I'm writing this on a PC, as I'd find it a pain to do on a phone or tablet - for me they are good for consumption, and small amounts of creation (a short reply to emails or forums is fine).

 

Edit : Just chose the "Follow" option for this thread, and found it interesting that the only option for notifications is "instantly".  No option to get a daily update email!


I agree with everything you said, Andy. Did you see "The Gadget Show" episode, where they boldly (or ignorantly) stated that "The PC is dead"?

I laughed with incredulity... at them

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I agree with everything you said, Andy. Did you see "The Gadget Show" episode, where they boldly (or ignorantly) stated that "The PC is dead"?

I laughed with incredulity... at them

It happens in lots of places, especially TV, that people feel the need to be seen to be saying something significant / contentious.

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