An increased dependency on technology is weakening human bonds — although new technologies coming to the fore now could help to reverse this trend.
Havas’ latest Prosumer Report, iLife, indicates that 69% of South Africans believe human bonds are weakening with more technology dependence. But 51% are hopeful that artificial intelligence (AI) will be good for society.

The iLife study probes the tensions like this there are endemic in people’s evolving relationship with technology.

Lynn Madeley, CEO of Havas Southern Africa, comments: “In iLife, we fill the gap that resides between people’s excitement at cutting-edge technological advances and the usually exaggerated imagination of apocalyptic robotic domination depicted in entertainment. We zero-in on the granular elements that reside between those two extremes and analyse how people interrogate and continue to ingrain technology into their lives.

“There is an overwhelming presence of technology: 94% of South African prosumers have their smartphones within reach except when charging; and 66% check their smartphones when they wake up at night,” she adds.

“With such proximity to smart devices, privacy and security are a critical concern. While people want convenience, they’re not always willing to receive it in exchange for relaxing their privacy settings.”

Highlights from the report include:
* Behold the fakery – Gen Z are prone to having more than one profile on various social platforms: one “fake” one for specific audiences, with specific content; and one “real” one for family and close friends. The attention given to online presence in this manner accords their online existence as much, if not more value than their “real” life.

* Less selfie-obsessed, more cause-driven engagement – Social media has become the platform for championing causes, with real life impact. This is exemplified in movements like #FeesMustFall, enabling activists to connect, garner support and organize across different campuses. Globally, 70% of Prosumers use social media to support the causes they care about, in India, that number is 85% and in South Africa, 61%.

* People live in bubbles – Could brands build the bridges that connect the bubbles people live in? Because while the Internet convenes people, it has led to the building of insular bubbles which divide rather than unify. Globally, 50% believe that social media is a divisive force and in South Africa, that number is 44%.

* People want fewer apps – 46% South Africans believe they have all the apps they need on their smartphones. The app race is slowing down and compound applications like WeChat will soon be the go-to for new app developments. Brands need to stop developing apps for the sake of it.

Madeley says there are a number of opportunity areas brands could consider for more impactful engagement:

* How do they afford people a more humane touch at a time where humanity seems to be competing with bits and bytes?

* How do they curate more offline experiences to encourage personable engagement?

* How do they learn not to overwhelm? To only be available when needed?

* How do they collect the data they need while respecting people’s privacy?