This Digital Life


The extent to which the world has changed in the past couple of decades is astounding. The infusion of digital technology, new channels of communication, changes in household composition, the faster pace of living, and the radical transformation of social mores have left many of us feeling unbalanced and unsure of what is coming next.

For all the good it has brought, this dizzying maelstrom of change has also pushed aside a number of things we value, including a meaningful connection to the natural world and a deep-seated sense of community. As a consequence, many people are feeling deeply ambivalent about the future, and that is affecting how they plan and the decisions they are making today.

In this study, Havas Group explores life in the post-technology era—a time when digital tools have become so infused into our daily lives that they cease to offer meaning beyond their utilitarian functions. The study incorporates findings from an online survey of 7,213 adults in 19 countries.

Key findings include:

People are feeling deeply dissatisfied with the present and ambivalent about the future. While consumers are embracing all the new technologies and conveniences that are so much a part of the modern lifestyle, they are also wistful about those aspects of life—including simplicity, intellectuality, and strong ties to nature’s rhythms—that are slipping away. There is a growing sense that we need to take some time, individually and as a society, to think about the direction in which we are moving and whether we are going to be happy with where we end up. Many are questioning whether we can put the brakes on our current dizzying rate of “progress” and find a better, healthier, more satisfying way in which to move forward. It is too late to change course entirely, but we may be able to tinker with those aspects of the future that are most unsettling to us.

Modernity has long been synonymous with progress, but the idea of the future doesn’t make us dream anymore. Six in 10 global respondents believe society is moving in the wrong direction, and many feel they are actually wasting their lives.

Are people getting dumber? There is widespread concern that digital technology and multitasking are impairing humans’ ability to think deeply and to concentrate on one task at a time. And most of those surveyed believe society has become too shallow, focusing too much on things that don’t really matter.

Extremism and intransigence are on the rise. Fifty-eight percent worry we are losing the ability to engage in civil debate. There is also broad-based concern about the rise in political extremism, paranoia, and conspiracy theories.

We fear that social media and online data collection are chiseling away at our right to privacy. A majority worry that technology is robbing us of our privacy and that people are wrong to share so many of their personal thoughts and experiences online.


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