The Stream - is there any escape? close

Seth Armstrong-Twigg
In It's a Random World
19th February 2014
The Stream - is there any escape?

The problem

When the internet first became a thing that was available to everyone, people said that one day we’d all live our lives online. Given that most of us had grown up with sci-fi we were slightly wary of bold, and often incorrect, predictions of the future.

However, we sit here in early 2014 with a real problem on our hands. That is, the issue of our online and offline lives, becoming one.

Look around you. As you sit on the train, walk around, shop… how many faces can you actually see? How many hands are unoccupied? How many people are conscious of their surroundings?

Look at yourself. How many times do you check your phone each day? Do you prefer to have a conversation online rather than in real life? Does a dull glow appear under the duvet at night?

So what are we looking at?

We could be texting. We could even be following directions. However, mostly, we’re trying to keep afloat in The Stream. For the uninitiated, The Stream is a live feed of information from the internet. It might come from Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or an app such as Feedly. It might contain an image of someone we know, a status by a celebrity we admire, or more importantly, a video of a cat playing the piano. We swipe down at the top of the screen and are flooded with more. And more - more than we can cope with. In a matter of minutes, The Stream becomes a Tsunami of information.

Why are we doing this?

The Stream relies on us for existence. We, the people, keep The Stream going with our endless obsession for information. More importantly, we desire new information that we can have as soon as it breaks, a need that The Stream fulfils.

As well as news, The Stream feeds us viral and buzzy content which has been designed to have an instant but temporary effect that will make us want to share it with others.

How can we stop?

Well, ideally we could disconnect from everything. However, the reality is that our online and offline lives have become so connected, that it might be impossible.

What we can do is learn to control it and manage it in a way that draws the line. Businesses have begun to capitalise on this trend of disconnecting. There has been a surge in digital detox holidays where smartphones and other internet enabled devices are banned, and people can rediscover their former selves. In London, Selfridge’s have created a ‘Silence Room’ where WiFi is disabled and busy shoppers can retreat from the intensity of Oxford Street and also, technology. In America, there’s a restaurant that offers customers a 5% discount if they leave their phones behind the bar.

Many large companies use internet blocking software in order to increase productivity. One such example, Freedom, boasts amongst its users, colossal media giants such as The New York Times, The Economist and Time Magazine. Furthermore, people are turning more and more to techniques such as meditation in an attempt to discover new ways of disconnecting.

Hopefully, just as we once became engulfed by The Stream, we can become powerful enough to swim against the flow, or maybe one day, even leave the water completely.