I’ve had something stuck in my head for a little while now that I’ve had a difficult time finding words to properly explain. Even this blog post’s title went through a number of revisions before landing where it did. All of this circles around expectations and shifts in perception.
It is no secret we are in a significant shift culturally where users demand mobility and access everywhere. We want everything to be compatible with our smartphones or tablets because we’re all on the go. I personally benefit greatly from the technology available to me and I do feel like I can do more from wherever I’m at, whether that means phone calls, text messages, accessing Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, or any other number of “cloud” based services. But all this wireless access and freedom requires things few of us think about:
Wires. Lots of fiber and T-1 lines. Cell towers. Huge data centers.
What do they all have in common? You guessed it, these things not very mobile. Yet they exist because we demand to be. Our very ability to be free to do what we want where we want is grounded, quite literally, in hardware that is a bit more of a permanent structure. Cell towers loom over our urban landscape so our phones can send and receive our critical tweets and Facebook status updates. Data centers house (probably way too much of) our personal info, with servers running around the clock just waiting for us to make them show us pictures of our friends or cats, or perhaps even something important like work email.
Without all this, we’re unable to have that freedom we so badly desire.
Part of what I’ve always found ironic about people is that we all need stability in our lives. Whether that manifests itself in faith, a community of friends, family, following a daily routine, or a long term job, it’s nearly impossible to exist for long periods of time without it. I don’t think our psyche can’t handle that much change without a pillar to go back to. We all crave a constant in some form.
As we continue to become a more mobile society that has a difficult time settling down, perhaps more so in the realms of ideals and what we choose to define us, it’s important to recognize there is a much bigger hidden cost being our mobility and freedom. One, that from a technology perspective, we all rely on an incredibly huge backend infrastructure that, like a fence around a backyard, allows us to play to our heart’s content. And two, our own personal freedoms and exploration come out of the strength based on a strong base of support and consistency in our lives.