Digital technology makes many of us feel happy (yes, really)

In the future we may be slaves to our smart fridges - hurrah

 Kiela Brodigan and Caroline Reynolds at the launch of Virgin’s Digital Insights Report. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

Kiela Brodigan and Caroline Reynolds at the launch of Virgin’s Digital Insights Report. Photograph: Sasko Lazarov/Photocall Ireland

 

Digital technology can be a bit of a drag, as countless cries for help disguised as newspaper thinkpieces have suggested.

But when Amárach Research, on behalf of Virgin Media, asked 1,000 consumers in Ireland how using of digital technology made them feel, 80 per cent opted for happy (as opposed to sad). As TV3 Ireland AM presenter Sinéad Desmond noted at the launch of Virgin’s Digital Insights Report, it is a side of the story that can get lost in the media sometimes.

When presented with two binary options, only 21 per cent of those surveyed by Amárach said they felt enslaved by digital technology rather than empowered, 23 per cent chose insecure over secure and 20 per cent said it made them feel stressed rather than calm.

Still, if you’re part of the 28 per cent who feel drained rather than energised by digital technology, or the 24 per cent who feel antisocial rather than sociable as a result of it, then the last few years won’t have been much fun.

Since Virgin Media (previously known as UPC Ireland) first started producing its analysis of the digital economy in 2012, smartphone ownership has exploded to the point that nine in 10 Irish consumers own one. Indeed, the best way to avoid being frustrated by smartphone zombies, or what the Germans call “smombies”, as you walk down the street is to become one yourself.

It is obviously important to monitor the impact of these rapid changes on our health and wider society – or at least try to, if you haven’t bumped into a lamppost. But for Irish businesses, there is a “get with the programme” aspect to the digital revolution. Almost everybody who is online, shops online, and they are spending more money than before. We are, as Amárach’s Gerard O’Neill said, still “only at the beginning of this digital transformation”.

Many consumers have not yet dared to dream of the possibilities, it seems. Only 16 per cent, for example, identified food “alerts” from their fridge to their phone as a service they would like.

Even allowing for the fact that a chunk of the respondents will have their food shopping done for them by partners or parents, this seems a rather low number, and points to a future potential audience for nostalgic laments for analogue fridges, with their sour milk and sparse shelves.

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