There are two sides to every story and for the most part, people are willing to hear both sides before drawing their conclusions. There are, however, occasions where one side of the argument will greatly overshadow the other and sway public opinion because an alternative conclusion becomes seemingly impossible.

Our always-on society is one of these arguments. Its presence in the media is often hailed as a positive step forward for all humanity, offering all of the information we could possibly want at our fingertips, new business opportunities, greater connectivity between offices, and a fleet of wearables that tell us when we’ve walked enough steps to eat the doughnut we’ve been eyeing hungrily all morning.

Technology has made us fitter, more sociable, more clued-up, more efficient at work, more ‘DIY’ at home and more engaged with the world – or so we are lead to believe.

There are 6.8 billion people on Earth today. 4 billion own mobile phones, 3.5 billion use a toothbrush[1]. It’s not a case of having our priorities round the wrong way but rather we have come to expect our lives to function in sync with the technology around us. Before we’ve even made it to the office we’ve already checked emails, traffic updates, the weather, bought coffee using a smartphone payment app, wished a happy birthday, posted a photo, read the news and downloaded our favourite show to watch on the train home – all from our smartphones, all without sharing a single word with another human being. Rightly or wrongly, we have become ‘part of a 21 st -century mania for cramming everything we do into every single spare moment of downtime[2]’ we have.

We’re not arguing that this way of living is a bad thing, or that the convenience of having so much information to hand is in any way counterproductive. We do, however, believe that the events surrounding the Always-On Con signal the start of a timely and vital investigation into the way technology intersects with our working and personal lives. We are starting a conversation that shines a light on both the pros and the cons of an always-on society to make sure that this subject is considered fairly and from all sides.

We want to talk about the addictive nature of our smartphones, our mental and physical well being and how being constantly plugged in effects our stress and sleep levels, causes burnouts and make us less emotionally connected to other people. We are going to look at the recent surge in ‘UK internet users who have taken a ‘digital detox’ in a bid to strike a healthier balance between technology and life beyond the screen[3]’ – around 15 million people to be exact – and will ask if multitasking really is ‘a powerful and diabolical illusion[4]’ and what this means for the workplace.

Ultimately, we will delve into the arguments behind the ‘Always-On’ debate and determine whether or not it has all been one big con from the start.

Here’s a thought we’d like to share with you as we begin to look at the always-on habits that we’ve all been cultivating for ourselves:

‘Like many things in life, it starts with you. Habits and addictions grow gradually and sometimes we don’t realise enough that we can make choices ourselves. If you make choices well-considered, you will see that you are able to make a good distinction between work and private life – even in an “always on society”[5]’.

How to get involved

In addition to joining us at the debates, we would love for you to share your thoughts with us on Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter as we continue to ask questions and share insights that emerge throughout the debates.

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