As I watch my tween-aged daughter glued to the computer screen for hours each day, talking to her mates, I find my mind drifting to the sort of social conditioning that's been going on to encourage it. I hear you say, "well just stop her doing it, you negligent, no-good father". My immediate repost to that is "Just try it - and why should I anyway?"
You see, we've created this impersonal world of instant gratification and commoditisation. Every move we make from government down to small business encourages destruction of face-to-face relationships, even though they are ultimately the most effective, if not the most efficient, form of communication. When Gen Zs start their casual jobs in department stores in the next few years, just see how difficult it will be to strike up a conversation.
This is one of the consequences that concerns me as the competition ideologues in our federal bureaucracy roll out reforms to 'cut costs' to consumers. While I think some reforms are required to regulate against price gouging and, occasionally, outright theft, I draw the line at the almost single-minded focus on costs that seem to drive reforms.
It's a mindset that relegates the concept of value and personalisation to virtually nothing. Let's cut bank fees. Great idea, but then why kick up a fuss when banks close branches and cut staff to protect margins and push us across even more into the internet banking space? All of a sudden, regional MPs fire off salvos about the unfairness of it all, but they're complicit in the reforms that cut the guts out of the system in the first place. Doh!
There's a pretty good possibility that my tween daughter will see the time when there are no street shingles bearing the name of a bank or telco. She'll run her life online, interfacing with virtual customer service staff, computers in the clouds and she'll own products for which there is no tangible evidence of ownership. But perhaps we're being driven to a society that is so impersonal we no longer need 'personalisation'? And what does this mean for brands - the very essence of businesses with which people identify?
So when I ask why I should bother to get my daughter off Facebook, the question is well-founded. I'm swimming against a tsunami of social engineering and commercial reality that dictates that her life is defined within the perimeter of her 15.4-inch laptop screen. It's one of the costs of cheapness.