Home to me is in Wagga Wagga where I grew up, where most of my closest and oldest friends live, and where my Dad lives. When I think of home, I think of good times spent with the people whom I love. Home is the place where I feel most comfortable – free to relax and do as I please – it is where the water never runs cold, the house is always the right temperature, and the Internet speed is simply delicious.
My memories of technology in the family home as I was growing up mainly consist of early mornings or afternoons spent in front of the TV watching Cheez TV, ABC kids or any old cartoon. This was before I knew of, or needed, the magic of broadband internet. TV was part of my daily routine and although both of my parents were busy, I do have memories of sitting and enjoying a program together.
Fast-forward a few years; I’m in high school, year eight. I have a mobile phone and just received my first personal laptop: life is good. We have unlimited broadband Internet: life is great. It was at this stage in my life that things began to change. Integrating these new devices into my life and daily routine resulted in: me spending much more time in my room, on my laptop, being antisocial. These luxuries impacted the way our family interacted in the home and not necessarily in a good way. The TV was still part of my daily routine but it was now competing with the internet, my social life and the time I spent on my mobile phone… plus I had to squeeze in some time for family. You can imagine this is a lot for a 13 year old to manage, so it is no surprise that I, like most other people, began multitasking… talking to family at home whilst also keeping up with my friends online and I adopted the habit of second screening.
Although families often sit down to enjoy the TV together and each other’s company, this is also a time where we interact and communicate with one another. I know my family would do this and I don’t believe this is a new notion. Deloitte conducted a study for the MediaGuardian Edinburgh International Television Festival, 2012, that found 80% of participants “talk ‘frequently’ or ‘occasionally’ to other people in the same room while watching TV” (Deloitte 2012, p.16). This is a continuation of earlier technological impacts and many would agree that it is now ‘normal’. However, I believe that broadband Internet introduced another medium for us to interact with, which in turn distracts and disconnects us from those who are physically present. We use to only have the TV and those in our company, to divide our attention amongst; now there are so many devices demanding our attention, it’s hard to find a balance. Ironically, technological advancements that have enabled greater connectivity, have created disconnect in face-to-face communication and the level of engagement.
I know this all sounds quite cynical and as though I think the Internet is corrupt, damaging our society by inhibiting human interaction. However, I see it to be a process of evolution in the way we communicate and interact is changing. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) found in 2012-2013, 83% of households were connected to the internet and although the highest portion of users were aged between 15 and 17, 46% of people over the age of 65 were internet users. The below graph illustrates how widely the internet is used and evidences that it’s integral in the daily lives of most people.
I chatted to my dad about broadband and asked him how he thinks its impacted the home and family interaction. He said that it has ‘changed face-to-face talk time and rather than being person to person, attention has shifted to devices and social media’. He didn’t suggest that this was a bad thing but he didn’t think it was entirely positive. He doesn’t believe that the NBN will have a significant impact on the family home. While we both agreed that there are many benefits, he sees it as an extension and improvement of what already exists. The slow rollout means that the development will be slow; initially it will just be providing people with a better version of what they might already have. Until it is more widely available, the impacts it could have on the home are limited.
Dad currently connects to the Internet using wireless ADSL2 and has another two data plans – the one included in his mobile plan and a wireless USB – despite having varies connections, he only connects to the ADSL2 using one device, his laptop. It is for this reason that he doesn’t really need the NBN at the moment; ‘what I’ve got is quick enough but if it [the NBN] was cheap enough, I’d probably take it up… otherwise what I have now is fine’.
Earlier I said that home is where the internet speed is simply delicious. I stand by this point and believe this means that when or if the NBN were to become available in my area, it wouldn’t be something I would pass up. Having fast internet is a very good feeling, and for me, it makes me feel like I really have my life together – when lets be honest, I don’t – so just imagine how magical the NBN will be.
Don’t believe me? Click here to see for yourself!
After all, using slow internet brings out the worst in people and that isn’t something to encourage.