Do personal electronic devices promote single-mindedness? What will be the long term consequences of our current mobile-dependent lifestyle?

It’s 10pm and the Jenkins, Olivia and Martin, are in bed. After a long, busy day they are finally spending time together. She is watching the latest Netflix series on her tablet. He is checking the news and the latest sport results. “ur movie ok?” “yep” is the text exchange they share before a quick kiss and lights out.

In his bedroom, young Peter is playing a video game on his laptop, while his sister is chatting with her school mates on Snapchat.

This group of people is called a family. In practice they are four individuals who inhabit the same physical space, yet they live parallel lives with less and less need for interaction.

In the morning, each of them will proceed to the kitchen where their favourite single portion breakfast will await them. Again, no sharing required; no need to remove headphones; no need for talking to one another or negotiating who will eat the last slice of cake. No dialogue necessary.

Some of us welcome this new reality of abundance and personal choice.

For those of us old enough to remember the 1980s, this new domestic scene may look like a a great achievement and the triumph of individual choice. Back when we would have to agonise over what program to watch among the three or four available. Back when mom would cook one breakfast we all had to share, like it or not. Back when the ultimate family power came when it was finally your turn hold the remote control.

Not every family is a Jenkins family. Even at the Jenkins, this scene of domestic electronic bliss may not take centre stage every night. Yet this is the way many of us are heading, even aspiring to go without realising the risks. This state of affairs calls for a reflection.

Internet and personal devices have infiltrated our lives in such a pervasive way that we seem unable to live without them. At the beginning they just were phones. Impractical bricks we used for emergencies and sporadic quick calls. Today smart phones are luxurious slices of shiny glass at out fingertips, with more power than any 1990s desktop. They are fully fledged hand-held, pocket size powerhouses able to virtually transport us away from our current reality: they are single-passenger spaceships ready to transport in any universe we want to fly to.

In our new world fit for one, everything is bespoke. Wrapped in our very own algorithm, we are fed information we want to have, lured by goods we want to buy and living in our finely customised universe, often without realising it. Big data collects and feeds back a myriad of personal information so that each of us represent a market of one. Each of us is one single consumer courted by advertisers, stalked by retargeted ads, ensconced in an entirely single and separate universe.

Against this backdrop of singleminded existences, while living parallel lives, we are challenged to cooperate in the workplace, to negotiate, to communicate, and to lead. We are asked to practice and excel using skills we are less and less familiar with, and, in the case of the younger generations, skills they never had a chance to acquire in the first place.

In our global, inter-connected economy we are becoming increasingly aware of the need to think systemically, to include others in our equation, and to think through the consequences of our actions – yet we increasingly live in single-sized bubbles, each one for themselves, our head down drawn into our own smartphone.