Question. Would not having access to the internet (dare I say, Wi-Fi) ruin your day?
If you said yes, congratulations, the following image showing ‘Maslow’s hierarchy of needs version 2.0’ is no longer a joke to you. It’s eerily true!
In our hyperconnected daily lives, Wi-Fi is truly our basic need. And Wi-Fi Rage is a thing! The more we use our devices, the more we get attached to them, so when they don’t work, sometimes we tend to just go a little bit ‘crazy’.
Incidentally, I felt the ‘frustration’ as recently as yesterday. I was unable to FaceTime with my father as he recuperates in the hospital, because their Wi-Fi was down. I couldn’t help but feel a tinge of second-hand frustration wondering how he’d go through the day stuck in a room with no visitors and no internet. Apparently, not being able to be connected to emails, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Amazon, Netflix or even Spotify can create the same negative emotions as not having food when you are hungry. So, how did we reach here?!
Hyper-connected: when people are linked continuously through tech devices to other humans and to global intelligence. Simply put, when you are glued to your device. Millennials have been the first generation to grow up with social media and smartphones, and they continue to be the generation with the broadest usage of technology. 93% of millennials own smartphones compared with 90% of Gen Xers and 68% of baby boomers. Meanwhile teens and young adults have been at the forefront of the rapid adoption of the mobile internet and the always-on lifestyle it has made possible. According to the Pew Research Center, 95 percent of teens have access to a smartphone and 45 percent say they’re online “almost constantly.”
By now, I’m sure all of you are familiar with Abraham Maslow’s ‘hierarchy of needs’, which is a theory that describes the pattern through which human motivations move. Now, on Maslow’s (actual) pyramid, the way up to the top typically signifies a more complex need and the fulfilment of the previous stage’s need. Through the above 2.0 chart, it is interesting to see how we move from the fundamental stages towards the more complex ones in our increasingly hyperconnected digital world. Basic ‘physiological’ needs here are having a smartphone or tablet and having access to a stable internet connection. You move up to the safety stage, which is concerned with an individual’s sense of security, perhaps with access to Uber, Google Maps or the Password keychain. Next up, social needs – the feeling of belonging, love and community. This is reflected in our social media presence on Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and also our swiping-addiction on Tinder, Bumble, Grindr and the like. The absence of this love results in loneliness, anxiety, and depression. These platforms have also affected our behavior in forging real-life connections. In fact, lots of people have increased social anxiety and awkwardness levels in real life because they’re so used to ‘hiding behind’ autocorrect, emojis, GIFs and predictive text.
The penultimate stage reflects esteem needs – self-respect as well as respect in others’ eyes. Social media plays a huge role in giving us that sense of self-esteem. According to a study conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health on 16-24 year-olds, Instagram is the worst social network for self-esteem and YouTube had the most positive impact on self-esteem, followed by Twitter, Facebook and Snapchat. About 20% of young people admit that they wake up in the middle of the night to check social media. This leaves them 300% more likely to feel tired the next day when compared to their peers who sleep through the night. Interestingly, digitization has made LinkedIn and YouTube feature in the final stage of self-actualization of hyper-connected souls. LinkedIn helps people project their personal brand in their professional life and YouTube enables people to showcase their passions via videos to millions.
There’s no doubt about it that being this connected has a lot of advantages. However, in an increasingly virtual world (especially in context of an ongoing pandemic) people are beginning to lose touch with reality. Being hyperconnected all the time is actually a red flag for human relationships when the tools we have designed to make our lives easier may actually have made them far more difficult to navigate. If social media and emerging technology leads to this method of evaluating someone’s personal growth and development in life, that’s concerning to me. It takes me back to last week’s readings, through which we heard Tristan Harris – ‘the conscience of Silicon Valley’ – say, that big tech companies are simply competing for your attention and they prey on your psychology for their own profit. It seems technology is currently asking our brain what’s the best way to impulsively get you to do the next tiniest thing with your time (which is, watch that next recommended video on YouTube or TikTok and spend 30 minutes on the page before you know it!) instead of asking you what would be ‘time well spent’ for you. I’m still left wondering – what’s the human cost associated with this perceived self-esteem and sense of self-actualization (or shall I call it, self-alienation)?
Here’s a fun afterthought: If our class were to create an updated pyramid in 2021 to describe our hierarchy of needs, what do you think would be at the top? I’m really curious to hear your thoughts!