This is the price you pay for convenience.
For the past two years, my life has become increasingly isolated. I work from home, shop online and use convenience apps for everything. I’m a modern-day “insourcer”, choosing to stay at home and manage my life using technology, removing myself from endless opportunities to interact with others.
I thought it was what I wanted. Stressed out from commuting to and from work, raising my children and trying to get everything done, I began making what I thought were smarter choices. I started working from home, bought a cross trainer so I could exercise at home and started doing majority of my shopping online.
My life had become an example of extreme insourcing, occasional work commitments and school meetings.
Sure my life was easier, but I wasn’t any happier. I was lonely and increasingly isolated. I realised I had to make urgent changes and get back out there into the world. I could still be an insourcer, but in a more measured way.
The term insourcing was previously used to describe a business practice whereby something was handled internally by a company. Now insourcing is being used to describe how many of us are conducting our entire lives, by using technology to access goods, services, jobs and even friendships using technology, either from work or from home.
There is hardly anything we can’t insource these days and the concern is that it is causing us to become increasingly isolated because human contact has become optional. Isn’t that a sad thought? If we choose to, we can go through an entire day without interacting with anyone who isn’t part of our inner circle.
Project Wing is a drone delivery service and was recently tested in the Australian outback. Watch a farmer order dog food. Article continues after this video.
Aja Frost from the Crunch Network feels strongly that increased efficiency will eventually make us all miserable, if it hasn’t done already. Yes, life is easier but where is all the incidental interaction? All those brief chats we used to have at the grocery store or at the medical centre have been removed by online services allowing us to insource to fulfill those needs. Then, when we select, “leave at the front door”, we don’t even end up interacting with the delivery person who facilitates the insourcing of food, clothes, medicines, toys, tools, everything that’s for sale in fact.
Who needs to trawl through the isles of Bunnings ask advice from a human being when we can go online, read reviews and make our choice on a website?
Hiding behind convenience, we allow ourselves to become withdrawn from parts of life that used to be necessary. As time goes on there will be hardly anything that can’t be insourced. Think online dating.
For an introverted-extrovert like me, it seemed to be a dream come true. However, Frost points out that even though it seems that technology can only ever enhance our personal and professional lives, allowing us to do more from the comfort of our own homes, he finds it worrisome.
The 2014 study “Social Interactions and Well-Being: The Surprising Power of Weak Ties” found that our daily interactions with “weak ties” (people we don’t know very well) have a positive correlation with our happiness and feelings of belonging. In other words, the more micro-interactions we have, the better we feel. The researchers also found this impact wasn’t limited to extroverts. On the contrary, they concluded it might be “especially beneficial” for introverts to have a high number of daily interactions.
Frost says that technology has made us more efficient, however socialisation makes us happy.
In addition, a study by Elizabeth Dunn and Gillian Sandstrom found that, when it comes to our happiness, socialization trumps efficiency. Participants who followed directions to have a “genuine interaction with the cashier” by smiling, making eye contact and having a brief conversation were far more satisfied with their experience and happier in general than those directed to “make their interaction with the cashier as efficient as possible.
When we travel to and from work, our heads buried in technology so we can continue working, or shopping, organising and insourcing everything possible, we are removing ourselves from any opportunity to interact.
Researchers from the University of Chicago found that commuters who were told to speak to the person sitting next to them reported their commute to be much more pleasant than those instructed to “enjoy their solitude.” Again, personality type had no effect. So while our future might be convenient, efficient and easy, without micro-interactions, it might also be lonely and sad.
He urges us to use what he calls “efficiency apps” if we must, however to remember to balance them out with micro-interactions as much as possible.
Because, after all, what’s the point of convenience if it doesn’t make you happy?
He reminds me of those times when I do step out of my comfort zone, my self-imposed isolation, and I work from the office, grocery shop in person or catch a train without touching my device, and the resulting interactions that may not be memorable, but certainly make me happier than if I can sunk into insource-mode, allowing technology to run my life.
On a train trip from the city last year to the hospital to visit my niece, I was too worried to use my device, thinking only of arriving at my destination. I was sitting next to a young man who turned out to be a doctor. We started talking and it was one of the most brilliant, rewarding, incidental social interactions I’ve had in a while. It reminded me to force myself to step outside of my closeted little world more often. I needed to use insourcing as a convenience, but not let it completely take over my life.
Convenience apps are great. Having groceries delivered is great. Being able to find a specific kind of flea medication for my dog in minutes without having to visit seven different pet stores is great.
I needed to be a smarter insourcer, more considered and selective, keeping my happiness in mind. Frost advises the same.
And like everything else, take advantage of convenience “in moderation.” When you’re hosting a party and halfway through you run out of booze, use Drizly to get a front-door beer delivery. But when it’s Sunday afternoon and you want some beer? Make a BevMo trip. When your boss offers to let you telecommute, think about saying, “Sounds great — but I’d love to come in at least three times a week.”
Think about it. The ability to insource hasn’t left us with more time to relax and have fun. Instead, the time saved by insourcing has left us with more time to work and keep up with the demands of modern life. Technology has allowed us to become busier and more stressed, not less busy and less stressed.
Insourcing solves one problem, and leaves us with another.
The important thing to remember is that we choose when we insource, and when we don’t. We are still in control of our interaction with technology, and our lives are the better for it.