Editorial | The year of living smartly

If 2012 was the year that mobile technology became a part of our lives, hopefully 2013 will be the year we figure out how to live with them

The year 2012 is going to be remembered in many ways as the year of social media. Already an established part of most people’s lives before the year began, services like Facebook and Twitter last year became indispensible communications tools for businesses, the press, lawmakers and public agencies. 

Many of these initiatives have been well received, and even the police received a rare bit of praise for effectively using social media – not just in terms of adopting the casual tone of the medium, but also for understanding that it is a source of two-way communication.

The solidification of social media’s position comes thanks to the rapid spread of smartphones, tablets and all the other devices that allow us to keep in touch with anyone, anywhere, anytime. 

As we saw with the mobile phone, the internet and even the landline telephone before that, society has reached a tipping point in its use of smartphones. Instead of giving their owners a technological leg up, they are on the verge of becoming a required accessory of daily life. Without one, people are in many ways cut off from services that once were primarily offered in physical format and only recently have moved to being offered first and foremost online.

Despite the divergent viewpoints about mobile technology expressed by the queen and the prime minister in their annual addresses, their comments are equally valid. They also serve to underscore the vast generational gap that exists when it comes to being online.

While mobile computing will be an indispensible part of life for the youngest generation, adults of the prime minister’s generation will continue to see them as an optional tool. Case in point is the prime minister herself: despite her praise for social media, she is among the minority of world leaders not communicating on Twitter. Similarly superficial in his acceptance of social media is her predecessor, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, who hasn’t updated his profile since he lost the 2011 general election. 

Meanwhile the queen, well-intentioned and well-placed as her concerns may be, reportedly has neither a mobile telephone nor an email address. While this may be a matter of regal distance, others in her generation are equally cut off from online living. 

Closing the digital divide entirely is unlikely, but the more people of all ages understand how mobile technologies are used and how they affect us, the better off we’ll be. As smart as mobile technologies are, in the end they are only as smart as the people who use them.