I've just returned from a wonderful trip on board QM2 – a voyage from Southampton to New York devoid of anything but the unpredictable, and sometimes wild Atlantic between ports.
It's been on my bucket list for years and 2017 was one of special birthdays and anniversaries all round so a great excuse to indulge, if one was needed. The whole experience exceeded expectations; I could bore you with all the details but suffice to say 'it doesn't get much better than this'.
We had decided as a group, including teenagers, that we would embrace the whole nostalgia of the 6-day voyage without the option of wifi; resulting in a few sharp intakes of breath I can tell you.
The days seemed longer, we enjoyed fantastic attentive round table chat without pings and rings, and the only purpose of mobiles were as cameras but without the now normal instant sharing with everyone and no one. Making and keeping arrangements at set times on the huge liner proved a challenge without text, it required a dusting down of planning and good manners.
Ironically, I had downloaded a couple of films to watch on holiday, (ok that's cheating but still no wifi!). The Circle from Netflix is worth a watch if you haven't seen it; there was a certain irony watching a movie with a dystopian view of our hyper-connected world, whilst adrift in the middle of the Atlantic with no wifi. The theme depicted a Google or Apple type operation, 'The Circle', seeking a world where everyone interacts compulsorily as a citizen via a social account, offering full exposure with privacy a thing of the past. Decisions crowd-sourced and machine-driven, individual emotions and secret thoughts impossible; one man’s utopia another's hell?
My second choice, 'I Daniel Blake' was the brilliant Ken Loach movie, which makes uncomfortable viewing for anyone with a social conscience. The main character, Daniel was a resourceful carpenter of 40 years who had nursed his dying wife, suffered a heart attack and had to engage with DWP for support until he got back on his feet. The lack of humanity coupled with endless, mindless ‘computer says no’ interactions he experienced were hard to watch without getting emotional. Whilst this was a movie and not real life, it’s worth asking the question as to what extent do organisations in all sectors (inadvertently) use complicated communication channels and rigid, unreviewed processes to create a buffer zone rather than a helpful empathetic response? To what extent do these cause misery and despair to vulnerable, in fact customers in general, as they struggle through the growing complexities of day to day life? What if we adopted a default of, 'yes let's see what we can do here' rather than, ‘no that's not possible' more often?
These two movies watched simultaneously stirred an emotion in me, particularly as I had awarded myself the valuable gift of time to contemplate, think and focus over a few days.
Is too much of our thinking and planning dictated and distracted by the need to have new shiny toys, putting off the real purpose of providing the best experience possible here and now. In fact, are we outsourcing our thinking to the latest platform? Have we forgotten the importance of emotion in communication, after all most of our decisions are emotionally driven? In a world seeking more female traits in business why are we beholden and in admiration of sharp, faceless, largely male-led Uber type organisations? Just because we can do things do we have to?
I have to confess that the real world of ‘always on’ sailed out to meet us as we docked in New York and it didn't take too long for eyes down, thumbs tapping and everyone communicating with everyone except those they were with.
For me I've decided that I am going to award myself this valuable gift of a few extra hours to spend undistracted more often, for fellow mobile junkies I'd thoroughly recommend it.