Hyper-connected society is changing who we think we are

I tweet therefore I am

Hyper connected society is changing who we think we are

Social networks and online gaming aren't just changing the way we lead out lives day-by-day but also fundamentally changing the way in which we see ourselves as individuals, according to a major new report from the UK government.

Obviously, we all spend far more time tapping away at our phones tweeting our hilarious snow photos, or Facebooking our latest culinary efforts but the Foresight Future Identities report commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills suggests that 'hyper-connectivity' is altering our self-perception.

Massively multiplayer online (MMO) games such as World of Warcraft are also looped into the study, making up another key online network.

Author Professor Sir John Beddington warns that we could see a rise in social exclusion for some and problems with balancing our rights and liberties against privacy and security, leading him to urge the government to take great care with its future policies.

Liberty, fraternity

It's not all bad news stemming from our hyper-connected lives though - Prof Bebbington points to the solidarity around the London 2012 Olympics as a high point, but then tempers it with the mobilisation of the London riots as an example of the negative connotations.

"A key message for policy makers is that identities can be a positive resource for social change, building social capital, and promoting well-being, but they can also have a role in social unrest and antisocial behaviour," states Bebbington.

Virtually live in interesting times

For governments around the world, the way in which social networks can mobilise people is a scary prospect - actually playing a part in revolution in some cases.

But for the individual, the way in which those governments respond to the scary reality of modern communications is just as frightening; often leading to knee-jerk policy decisions that discard civil liberties in a vain attempt to cling onto the status quo.

Clearly the only sensible response is to accept the changing landscape and try to help those who may be disenfranchised, but we don't recommend you hold your breath for rationality.

The PDF executive summary is well worth a read if you have a spare ten minutes - the full report will take a little longer.