Dutch Disease

Have you ever heard of a condition called infobesitas? It is an addiction to information due to the many drugs out there: internet, mobile phones, television and radio. According to youth trend watching/communications company YoungWorks in the Netherlands they are not addicted out of boredom or out of sincere interest to know things. Teenagers/youngsters/adolescents (or how do we call them these days? People like me who are wondering are definitely no longer in that category) are actually afraid to miss out on any news or information updates and are thus overwhelmed with information. Some sort of peer pressure to be aware and be able to chat about it – both in person and online (many parents probably won’t oppose to a kind of need-to-know peer pressure for their kids throughout high school and university). Symptoms? It negatively influences their ability to concentrate and to sleep. Whilst they are very active in retrieving news and at social network sites, they now appear to be less able to multitask when compared to adults. These general conclusions on the state of mind of our youth are all very nice, but what do the addicts think themselves? YoungWorks has a short video in its March 2010 Alert (sorry folks, it’s in Dutch) containing some nice Dutch architecture. And just for the record, while the Dutch media picked up on this new phenomenon from YoungWorks, the agency admits that the term originates from a US blogger… According to its YoungWorks Trendport Top 10, Infobesitas is said to become the 2010 buzzword (If we are indeed faced with an epidemic this year just imagine politicians and policymakers arguing on labelling and GDA levels (Guideline Daily Amounts)…

However, this latest Dutch disease could actually help cure another condition; the lack of registered donors to save lives. How? Well, this urge to ‘be out there’ connecting and communicating to people and absorbing information has, amongst other issues, led to the success of national social network sites such as Hyves. Hyves is derived from ‘hive’, a bee’s nest and “a place swarming with activity.”’ To hive is to store and collect. In a relatively small and densely populated country as the Netherlands, with just around 16.6 million inhabitants, there are over 10 million Hyves accounts.

Again, how can it help save lives? Earlier this month, the Dutch national news picked up on the possibility to become a registered organ donor through Hyves. There is a severe lack of registered donors in the Netherlands, resulting in long waiting lists and people dying in absence of a suitable donor. Since 12 April, all users of Hyves have seen a question popping up on their Hyves page: ‘If you could save a life, would you? Yes or No?’ Through this action, Hyves is supporting the Yes/No campaign of the Dutch transplant foundation (Nederlandse Transplantatie Stichting). If one decides to become a registered donor, this will appear on your Hyves profile page. This is said to be the first time Hyves changes the standard user profile for a good cause since it was founded in 2004.

Such a positive spin on the potential of social media networks even makes its sceptics soft. For instance, it convinced the blogging virgin that I am to share these trends and developments through the World Wide Web and with people I do not necessarily know. The next step is considering registering as a potential donor. Mmmmh…mission accomplished?

Esther (for those of you who wondered, yes, I am a Dutch citizen of the world)


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