Monday, November 10, 2008

Sustaining Families

Today I want to draw sustainability in another direction. Towards technology. No, not technologies that save energy or clean the environment, but familiar technologies we use everyday. Computers, email, phones and the rest have not only sped up my life, they have also hugely enriched my family life. For a start, it means we can retain close connections when we are scattered across the globe – Auckland, Rome, New York, London. I can catch up on the latest family snaps, talk with any of them wherever I am (and on video if I’ve access to the right gear), get the short version in texts and the long version on email, and of course, there's YouTube and Skype. It means Ro can see Stella every day (well, three times a day actually!). We also have a family blog where we share what’s important to us without talking to the world.

I was pleased that my own family’s experience is in perfect sync with a recent report on families and their use of technology. Five years ago the growing power of computing and the Internet was regarded as a serious problem for sustaining the vitality and mutual support of families. The thinking was that unless a family was sitting around the same dinner table every night, it couldn’t be called a real family. What a difference a few years make! Experience has taught us that technology can nurture the intimacy of family connections and the support that goes with them. However, video games can be a diversion. The lockdown some kids get into when they are playing them is a temporary escape, not a life state.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project has the numbers. 60 percent of adults said new technology did not affect the closeness of their families and 25 percent said it actually made them closer. And frankly, I believe that this 60 percent could all go into positive territory if they made some proactive changes on how they use and share their technological freedom. Even more significantly, people who felt that technology had changed their family life felt it had been for the good. That's the feeling we can use to make a direct link with sustainability.

I’ve written often about the idea that sustainability demands success across four bottom-lines: economic, environmental, cultural and social. These four are enmeshed with each other, so dealing with any one of them in isolation misses the point of how sustainability affects every aspect of our lives. So good to have confirmed that technology is proving to be a fantastic inspiration to the social and cultural dimensions of family life and our efforts to create a sustainable world.


Gianpaolo Grazioli said...

Great Post KR. Technology is the past, the present and future all together all at once. It is Family, Friends and work all together, it is an amplifier of our relationship. I will be bidding for Lovemarks at auction.
Ciao gp

Sophee McPhee said...

Technology has brought me closer to my global mentors and extended family, which is dispersed throughout Australia. However, due to its addictive qualities, it has definitely weakened the bond I have with my mum (who is also my housemate). It's funny how one can feel totally disconnected from people who are standing in the same room, yet intimately involved with their virtual communities. For me, this is the connects people who are separated by physical space, and disconnects people who share the same physical space.

I've lived with my mum my whole life and we are like two peas in a pod. In a previous post, I talked about how we've always been known as 'Lila & Sophee', not 'Lila' & 'Sophee'. As such, in a situation where I feel as though I have less independence than I would like and less control over my own life, the internet is an enticing and librating outlet. It is my escape; it is my world that my mum can't touch (though, she is quickly becoming a ‘master’ of the internet...go mum!).

I think a lot of Baby Boomers have really strong relationships with their kids and influential roles in their lives. Perhaps this is why Gen Y has positively jumped on technology - not because we've grown up alongside it, but because it has given us necessary relief from our folks?

Iconic said...

I would add a 5th bottom line or dimension to your current 4-bottom lines of economic, environmental, cultural and social. That would be TRUST.

Trust is the glue that binds any sustainable relationship and collaboration. It is the enabler that allows the "and-and" world to progress and grow.

If you measure trust, you may find that there is a correlation between trust and sustainability. If you don't trust the messenger or the message, that will affect the economic, environmental, cultural and social bottom-lines.

Piotr Jakubowski said...

I'd agree with Sophee in terms of the intimacy and disconnection. I'd have to add that the interconnectedness is a double-edged sword. Communication has faltered between generations in that stories usually passed on through the beauty of story-telling simply haven't been because of the gap that's grown between those generations.

On the otherhand, the connected generations have found a new realm through which to share and pass on their stories. In terms of personal life, it's great. My parents are in Indonesia, but they are at the touch of a mouse everysingle day. And as the internet has grown, we don't even have to spend money on phonecalls. And like you mentioned, Kevin, videochat is becoming more and more prevalent.

In terms of marketing, this could be a problem. Companies can't hide anymore because the bad experience can now be voiced worldwide. With sites like Yelp, people can post their own reviews of restaurants, bars and other service establishments. This is great in that smaller companies can now compete with the larger ones, by providing and exceeding the customer's expectations in the services they offer.