Happy Single (Digitally Speaking)

Since 2009, imec have been publishing an annual Digimeter report that attempts to assess how and to what extent digital technologies are used in Flanders. Flanders Today reports that the 2018 report is now out.

The headline news is that, this year, they have focussed on attitudes to technology and divided the region into five groups ranging from the Passionate Lover (of technology), who sees smartphones and social media as wholly wonderful, to the Distant Acquaintance, who is totally disinterested in digital media or technology.

The Dutch part of the site also links to a set of ten questions that you can use to assess your own Digimeter profile. And I can never resist a quiz.

Happy Single

You are quite happy as a bachelor with regard to technology, and at this moment you are certainly not interested in a fixed relationship with digital media. For that you are too worried about the many disadvantages that go with it: personal data that are misused, the spread of fake news, the addictive nature of the smartphone and social media…

If necessary, you can find your way into the digital world, but you can also enjoy offline forms of media.

This sounds like a reasonably fair description of me — I do have social media accounts, but I also avoid the big data mines like Facebook and Twitter and would prefer to spend my time reading a book, playing a game or watching a film. I was, however, a bit surprised to note that, elsewhere on the site, this makes me the opposite of the Passionate Lovers and a fierce opponent of technology. That strikes me as a bit of an overstatement of how I feel.

Elsewhere the report notes that, while people do feel better informed thanks to the internet, there is also an awareness of the challenges it brings, especially in the guise of fake news. Consequently, reliance on social media for news is declining (a very good thing, in my opinion), especially among 16 to 24 year olds, with people falling back on traditional news outlets and real journalists to stay informed. Social media is still heavily used, but is declining as a news source and hopefully this trend will continue.

I’ve not read the full report yet, but the site is nicely laid out allowing you to poke around whichever chapter happens to catch your interest. Although the survey was carried out in Flanders, I would assume that the Flemish are reasonably representative of Western Europe.

6 thoughts on “Happy Single (Digitally Speaking)

  1. I love technology. There are two reasons: one, due to my childhood illness (Meningitis) I lost some of my hearing and now rely on my phone (mostly texting) to communicate with everyone. Email, too, for those who don’t mind me typing a lot (I do love typing…a lot) 🙂

    The other reason: I just like it for its instantaneous-ness. I do like real time, up to date info. 🙂

    Up until I got a smartphone I was incredibly isolated. The need or want to be social was inhibited by numerous factors including the hearing loss. Then, suddenly, texting was ‘invented’ and I had more opportunity for socializing, or at least accessing it. (And, simultaneously discovered that I’m actually more of an introvert than an extrovert so the whole thing became moot, of sorts.)

    But do I take breaks from technology? Happily so?

    Yes. I’ll carry my phone but it may very well be on silent, or turned off. I have access to it if I need it but I turn it off to get a break. Then I pick up a book or cook or garden or walk a dog…

    It’s nice to get a break from the overload.


    1. This is why I was a bit surprised to find myself in the “opponent of technology” category. I have a smartphone and I do use it and I use a whole bunch of online services.

      On the other hand, though, I do try to be aware of how much time I spend online and how much data I’m handing over. I also can, and do, put my phone down and ignore it when appropriate.

      Ultimately, I think that the internet can be incredibly useful but it can also be a terrible time sink. I do try to remain aware of this.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a shame that there isn’t an English version available for the website because I really want to take that test! Happy Single is the way to go, but I do think technology has a lot of perks in that it means that we really do not have much of an excuse for ignorance when we live in the digital age – information is accessible. Twitter is useful as it does provide links to many articles and top news sites and it provides a sense of community that allows you to engage in various discussions pertaining to world wide news and find support. I think I might be a passionate lover, I love technology, hate that companies can use our private data though, but apparently this is the price we pay for information and now companies can even screen record… that’s a greater breach of privacy. Technology is here to stay, for a long while, I believe.


    1. It is a shame that the test is in Dutch only. I assume that this is a deliberate decision as the report and the results are available in English.

      Twitter certainly has its uses although I now use Mastodon instead. This is similar to Twitter in that it does create a sense of community, but without the constant mining of personal data in which Twitter engages. Most Mastodon instances are run by individuals or small groups and generally without any desire or means to make any profit from it.

      As far as news goes, one thing I have noticed on Twitter and similar sites is people posting links to news articles so quickly that they can’t possibly have read the actual article. This, I think, is one of the things that feeds the rage machine that Twitter can become — people posting and arguing about headlines without ever checking the detail.

      Technology is certainly beneficial and I do spend a lot of time on various parts of the internet. But we do need to be more aware of what data is being captured and how it’s being used.


      1. It appears so!

        This is the first I’ve heard of Mastodon. I will have to check that out one day! I remember that there is another app which is similar to Instagram, but had better security and privacy measures in place, but I haven’t heard any more about it to know if it’s still operating.

        Very true. Click bait headlines can be extremely deceiving, I’ve seen some beauty YouTuber’s who had to create click bait titles for whatever retail brand they’re employed by. It only works for a limited amount of time, and it leads to a lack of trust with less likelihood of people viewing articles and videos by them in the future. Someone will, after all, eventually read the entirety of the article and let Twitter users know.

        Greater transparency into private data uses will eventually be seen in court cases. I do find it strange that companies went from respecting our privacy, rolling out privacy policies, after the Facebook scandal, to now openly telling us that our cookies are needed and we can only use the website if we accept their privacy terms. It’s pretty threatening when you think about it.


        1. Mastodon is interesting in that, rather than having a single centralised service, it is made up of lots of independent instances all of which can talk to each other. I have seen other social networks taking the same approach but the Mastodon developers have done a really good job of getting it all to work together seamlessly.

          Most of these instances are relatively small and run non-commercially, so the need to mine your data for advertising just isn’t there. Also, being open source, if anyone did try to slip anything nasty into it, it would be noticed quite quickly.

          It’s amazing how many people don’t read beyond the headline and, of the people who do click through to the article, most won’t read it to the end. It’s not just a Twitter thing, but there is a culture on the internet — or parts of it, at least — that encourages people to respond quickly, and this short-circuits the normal process of reading things properly, understanding them and noticing the discrepancies.

          I still get my news from mainstream news sites and, these days, tend to ignore most of the links I see on social media.

          I don’t think the major social media companies have ever respected anyone’s privacy. I deleted my Facebook account back in 2012, and their handling of private data was one of the reasons. And, back in 2015, they were sued in Belgium and told that they couldn’t track non-Facebook users because, if you don’t have a Facebook account then you haven’t given them permission to track you. This was eventually overturned on a technicality but, for a while, it was very noticeable just how much Facebook relies on tracking as many people as it can for as far as it can.

          The difference now is that more people are more aware of just how much of our data is being sucked up by these companies, not just because of the various scandals but also legal moves like the EU’s GDPR legislation that forces companies to explicitly ask permission before trying to capture personal data.

          Things are far from ideal but I do think that we are slowly starting to head in the right direction.


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