We live in amazing times, don’t we? It wasn’t too many years ago that television was black & white, color was still something for the ‘real world’.
A person would periodically have to pull a handful of vacuum tubes from the TV and take them to the hardware store for testing. This usually followed a period in which the vertical hold would start going nuts, making the image flip crazily. Fun stuff!
These days, of course, a lot of the old communication and entertainment channels are fading from popularity. Newspapers have taken a big hit, with only a few of them making any effective efforts to adapt to an online market. Television and theaters have suffered too, just somewhat less. Radio has even felt the crunch – mostly in advertising sales.
The Effects of Connectivity
Our steady shift to online activities is being felt in a lot of areas. Many youngsters prefer their Xbox to Little League, and a lot of adults would rather watch movies online than bother with the local theater.
Of course, increased connectivity has rendered a great number of benefits to individuals, families, shoppers and marketers. Family members can locate each other, local vendors can be quickly located and stores can pinpoint their specific market segment, just to name a few.
As a result, we’ve become increasingly dependent upon these connections. In fact, for avid users of smart phones, being offline can bring on a palpable anxiety. We gather with friends at a local coffee shop, only to find everyone studiously texting someone or checking their Facebook page.
Our kids rarely seek interaction at the park, preferring online interaction. Carpal tunnel syndrome has given way to texting thumb.
In addition, our connectivity has had other, more lasting effects. Many would say that the more connected we are, the more we disconnect from the world around us. Sadly, I think that’s true.
The by-products of connectivity are many, but one notable issue that has arisen is a declining level of social skills. At an increasingly early age, our children are interacting with bytes, rather than with each other. The responses of others are more often gauged by emoticons or LOLs than by facial expressions. This even manifests itself between parents and their children in some (hopefully extreme) cases.
As is evidenced by rampant online bullying, people will say things via their keyboard that they might never say face-to-face. Sarcasm, insults, cruelty and even threats are cast about, seemingly indiscriminately. Are the possible effects of such things perhaps thought to be “not real”, hence, they mean nothing? Sadly, we have seen too many times that their effects can be all too real.
In short, although we are more connected than ever before, we are so disconnected on an interpersonal level that society as a whole is suffering. Our youngsters grow up experiencing less socialization, so that when it comes to effective communication, they are at a distinct disadvantage. And it’s not just the kids, folks… if you’re under fifty, you’re probably subject to at least some of the adverse effects of this pervasive connectivity.
Is there a solution? Having grown accustomed to conveniences like electricity, cars, air travel and real-time global communication, can we realistically expect ourselves to take a step back? Doubtful, I think. At the end of the day, we’re all basically spoiled.
On an individual level, though, I think we can moderate our dependency on constant connectivity. We can limit the time our kids spend on computer games, ensuring that they engage in some activities with flesh & blood companions. We can limit our own dependency on our instant ability to know when a friend checks in at Starbucks, without losing the convenience of being able to reach that friend and invite them to drop by for lunch.
We might, in the process, recall that “friend” status carries a connotation of a lot more than simply some unknown cluster of bytes that has decided to eavesdrop on our online utterances. In the long run, remembering that the folks on the other side of the monitor are human beings will make us better marketers, not to mention a lot more capable of actually being a friend.