THE BLOG

In A World Consumed By Technology, We Must Have The Power To Switch Off

27/03/2017 13:31 BST | Updated 27/03/2017 13:31 BST

Technology may have taken over our lives, but we need to stay in control. It keeps us connected to the world, allowing us to share our opinions with millions and watch the latest shows. But we must have the power to put the smartphones down and walk away.

On a train into London, I saw what is now a familiar sight; heads bowed, eyes illuminated, fingers frantically swiping. The way we use technology has changed; but more importantly, it has changed us. Technology is now our permanent companion, and it has plenty of tricks to keep us entertained.

It places the latest entertainment at our fingertips, and tells us what is happening across the world in seconds. Social media connects us with people we wouldn't have otherwise met so we can discuss the big issues. Connected devices are placing greater power in our hands, making shopping simpler and our lives easier to organise.

Advances in technology have also revolutionised the workplace. Work is now easier and faster to complete. The world is even more connected, with businesses trading 24/7. Time differences mean I could miss big meetings and new business opportunities; smartphones and email stop me from losing out. Technology is creating opportunities which we all benefit from every day.

The latest technology may bring us many benefits, but it also has its drawbacks. When left unchecked, it destroys our privacy and erodes our health. In a world without deadlines, where we can be contacted day or night, we never really switch off. The lines between work and play are becoming increasingly blurred. The time when our work lives were confined to 9 to 5 has truly come to an end. Work never stops, and we are all paying the price.

I remember a time, not too long ago, when I could leave the office at 6 o'clock on a Friday evening with a totally cleared desk. I would return on Monday morning refreshed and ready for a new week. Now one is duty bound to deal with emails all weekend. In the days before mobile phones, being out of the office meant you couldn't be contacted. Holidays offered a break, rather than a chance to do business from a more relaxed location.

And what about our relationships? We go to bed with an iPad to keep us company, rather than the warmth of our partner's embrace. And when we wake up, what's the first thing we turn to? That very same iPad. We all know this shouldn't happen, but it does.

Social media brings us closer to like-minded people, but it also opens us up to criticism and hatred. People can quickly turn fruitful discussions into mud-slinging matches. Meaningful debates can be shut down by abuse and death threats. Lies and misinformation can spread quicker than ever, as the EU referendum and election of President Trump show. Despite the best efforts to regulate it, social media regularly displays the ugly side of the internet, with people feeling intimidated by trolling and threats in their own homes.

Internet trolls are not the only ones compromising our privacy and sanity. Utilising our growing reliance on technology, government agencies can now watch our every move in ways Orwell could never have anticipated. Recent revelations from WikiLeaks have exposed how the CIA can spy on anyone using smart TVs and phones. Although we must trust that secret services are using these powers to defend us, we must start questioning the balance between security and liberty. After all, our lives are integrated into the digital world and we need to retain some control.

We cannot afford to turn our backs on new technology - after all, it is the future. But our lives should not be consumed by it either. It can be of immense benefit, bringing us the latest entertainment and news, connecting us with like-minded people and presenting new business opportunities. It makes the time when our desks would be buried with memos seem all too distant. But it is also compromising our health, opening us up to a constant barrage of work, stress and noise. It is easy to get sucked into the trap - with a few swipes of a screen you are suddenly connected with the world. But we must be disciplined. We must learn to switch off.

We must make technology our servant, not our master.