It feels like more and more of us are coming down with FOMO. Short for “fear of missing out”, it’s defined as the “anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on social media.” The technology-driven epidemic is a side-effect of our mobile phones becoming our baes, but it’s no surprise we want to be part of it all, since we see it all, all the time. Whether it’s mobiles in our faces, smartwatches on our wrists or internet appliances in our homes, technology is constantly bombarding our senses with information. While tech certainly makes our lives easier, offering lifestyle solutions and facilitating the balancing acts of these FOMO-induced modern lifestyles, it has also added layers of complication we never anticipated.
Some argue we’re collectively devolving into lazy, impatient, antisocial button-pressers and screen-touchers, dependant victims of the digital revolution itching for notifications and instant gratification. We wake up to mobile phone alarms and spend mornings scrolling down social media feeds as if they were newspapers – while actual newspapers are sadly shutting down. Snap-happy over-sharers document the banal on Snapchat until their batteries run dry. We watch concerts on the screens of viewers in front of us. Over meals, neo-photographers are busy art directing food and we often eat together in silence, tired eyeballs and fast fingers flicking over screens. Those without mobiles are weirdos, outliers, even “psychopaths” according to one viral meme.
But tech also gives us fantastical new abilities, improves quality of life and efficiency and brings us closer to faraway people and places. In a world where it’s more lucrative to work in the Gulf and fly to your Beirut-based family on weekends than hold a local job, smartphones and social media platforms have made it possible for us to stay closely connected with loved ones far away, so we don’t fear missing out. Families separated by seas wait for Life360 check-ins and long-distance couples enjoy 24-hour Facetime dates. Courtships begin on Tinder – so much so that an April 2015 glitch in the app caused a global meltdown – and singles swap likes and texts before investing in “real life” dates (that very same social media activity is later the basis for modern-day squabbles). We panic when there’s no reception, refresh our feeds religiously and fall asleep staring at screens (the latest iPhone update offers a night mode that makes this easier on the eyes).
Ask millennials about life before mobiles and you may get a moment of nostalgia; they’re the last generation to experience both “real” and digital lifestyles, growing up in that transition. But today’s youth can tech before they can talk. I’ve seen a one-year-old slide to unlock her mom’s iPhone and find “Peppa Pig” on YouTube – and she knew how to slide up incoming texts to get rid of the pesky interruptions.
Smartphones are becoming our BFFs, and rivalry between makers runs deep. The Samsung Galaxy Note5 targets multitaskers – helping users stay on top of their personal and professional lives simultaneously on one little screen. Some of LG’s phones even offer a double life, with two passcodes to separate personal and professional identities. Phones are becoming more durable: Samsung’s new Galaxy S7 Edge is advertised as water resistant for 30 minutes (plenty of time to save it from spillage accidents), while its Galaxy Round along with LG’s G Flex series are setting the trend for curved phones. For those with expensive taste, Vertu offers not only stunning design and top performance, but also luxury innovations like a concierge service and access to exclusive venues and events (a very FOMO-inducing feature!) Also stepping into the game is China’s Huawei and their range of competitive Android-run devices. While smartphones give us the illusion of freedom to live more spontaneously by making it easy to run a business on the run, it’s also enslaving to be constantly so connected. Of course exceptions and rebels are rampant but they’re dying out.
In the early days of wearable tech, we thought listening to music on the go on a bulky Sony Walkman was advanced. Today wearable tech looks like trendy watches, led by Apple Watch, Samsung’s Gear S, Sony SmartWatch and newcomer Huawei Watch, which track health, facilitate calls and utilize apps. Further wearables have given us the power of virtual vision; Google Glass and its competitors, like Atheer AiR by Lebanese entrepreneur Sulaiman Itany, are fascinating for everyone but especially useful for professionals by freeing hands and revolutionizing industries like medicine and engineering.
At work, fewer consumers use desktops, and most professionals opt for convenient laptops that transition easily from work to personal use. This has led a new breed of coffee shops to spring up, accommodating rows of laptop users with shared tables and free WiFi. Whereas we used to read newspapers and magazines to show off our intellect in public, today laptops make us look intelligent even if we’re Googling nonsense.
Our PCs are so small thanks to new forms of information storage. We’re changing how we communicate and collaborate, using email and online drives. Individuals as well as businesses are moving into the cloud, saving space and money. Popular sharing service Dropbox soared from 25 million users in 2011 to 400 million in 2015. Microsoft’s Azure, one of the major public Cloud Storage Providers along with Google Cloud and Amazon Web Services, was storing 10 trillion objects in 2015.
And while we slave away at work our smart appliances are beginning to do housework for us. LG’s Hom-Bot and Samsung’s POWERbot are some of the already available robotic vacuum cleaners that find their own way around a room, avoiding objects in their path. The two brands are also pioneering prototypes for fridges of the future, which include cameras and sensors so you know what’s inside without opening it – and can even view it remotely from your mobile.
Our homes accommodate us musically too. Music players like the BeoSound Moment understand our musical preferences, integrating music with streaming services to create a perfect acoustic atmosphere. Meanwhile the brand’s BeoLink Multiroom follows you around the house with utmost crisp quality sound and customized music. We don’t even need to go to a concert hall when you have live-music quality with BeoLab 90 loudspeaker. Closing your eyes while the music is playing, you can actually hear where each instrument in an ensemble is located. The 360-degree speakers measure surroundings to direct the perfect sound waves for any listening position, whether you’re watching a movie or having a party.
This goes beyond music too. “Netflix and chill” is the new “dinner and a movie” because home entertainment is on par with theatres. Why go to the cinema when you can have a high-powered home entertainment system like the Sony’s range of Blu-ray Home theatre systems, or one of the many other options on the market for every taste and budget? Today’s cinemas are forced to indulge spoiled consumers with VIP treatment and gourmet food options to make up for the fact that they can get virtually the same visual and sound quality in the comfort of their own homes. By revolutionizing television resolution to LG’s OLED display and Samsung’s 4K SUHD TV, sound quality and bringing 3D home, leading companies have not only changed our lives as consumers, but forced changes on rivaling entertainment venues, prompting new experiences altogether. Every day we test the limits of tech, expecting solutions, demanding evolutions and improving lives for future generations.
Technology is dashing forward so fast and in so many directions that it’s hard to keep track of what’s new and what’s what. In business, the speed at which tech is evolving is creating never-before-seen industries, sectors, businesses and movements. Banque du Liban, Lebanon’s central bank, is pushing local talent to expand in this direction by injecting more than $400 million into the sector with Circular 331. The domino effect of the Arab Spring was assisted by the use of smartphones and social media. Tech affects everything we do, how we think and communicate and who we are, throwing us into a digital age we could only have imagined a few short years ago. Sure, we’re becoming a little more neurotic, but what beats waking up to the sound of your child’s voice when they’re half a world away? That’s something we’re glad we’re not missing out on anymore.