Does anyone truly connect anymore?
Of course we do. With over 6.1 trillion text messages sent and over 50 million tweets sent daily in 2010 we can literally stay in touch around the clock. But do we really interact with each other as meaningfully as we used to? We’ve created an explosion of words, ideas and information. Over the past 50 years we’ve evolved from a simple world with three broadcast networks to a world with billions of networked broadcasts.
Today, one-person can broadcast to a network of friends and followers as often as they’d like through a myriad of channels.
These networked broadcasts have made our lives better. They’ve increased our individual efficiency and boosted our global connectedness. While the ‘shot heard round the world’ during the American Revolution actually took several months to communicate, the freedom cry from Tahrir Square took literally nanoseconds to dispatch. This communication explosion is a positive force for freedom and good for humanity.
That said and like many explosions, there’s also been collateral damage. It’s obvious to most culture watchers that the in-person conversations we used to have in our churches, town halls, and barbershops with family, friends and local merchants have waned with the growth of online texts, tweets, chats, status updates, blog posts and emails. Too many of the communications we make are broadcast in nature as opposed to direct, interactive and personal. But because broadcasts are so efficient and accessible, we rely on them and they’ve unfortunately replaced real interaction between people.
When we replace asynchronous broadcasts for personal engagements, it becomes easy to type first and ask questions later and we’re more prone to miscommunication and misunderstanding. I believe this has coarsened our discourse. And while we may have more choices in communication, we also have more fragmentation. We have more “friends” than ever before, but fewer meaningful connections. We may be a lot more efficient, but less able to easily interact and communicate our emotions. So again I’ll ask – are we truly connecting with each other?
I’m by no means a Luddite or opposed to new technology. All these new modes of communication are key to the future of my company, Apptera. I believe that if these disparate channels can be brought together in an integrated fashion, we can recapture the depth and meaning of conversations. More specifically, I believe that by integrating communications into a single application on our mobile devices, we can get back together and communicate more meaningfully.
Let’s talk about mobile. Mobile is here and ingrained into the global culture. Mobile phones are the first technology that allows us to establish a connection with anyone, at any time and from virtually anywhere in the world (other than the dead spot in my home office). Through a simple 10-digit number, the world and a full universe of engagement capabilities is available to connect us 24/7.
Not only can we tap out a quick text, we can stream our voices and faces through the air to deliver a
synchronous payload of emotion, description and nuance. We can make calls, add in a text here, a poke
there and a picture of our puppy covered in soap bubbles to fill in the blanks. And we can even bring location into the conversation.
Now let’s address integration. While it’s true that we can do all these things on mobile devices today, it’s not easy for the average consumer to do so. Integration is not a reality yet. Different channels for communicating are spread across a multitude of features, apps, social web platforms and disparate functionality. There is no single platform for interaction and engagement. On today’s mobile devices, each engagement channel is still a little more than a tree in the forest. Each mode of communication is a silo, a lone application on the phone top.
Integrated mobile engagement technology will give people the power to not just blast out a million more broadcast messages, but to more truly connect, easily share and interact with each other in more meaningful ways. Looking into the not-so-distant future, these technologies will be more integrated and enable the full richness of engagement and interaction with the touch of one easy and intuitive button on one screen. 4G networks with simultaneous voice and data capabilities, devices with multi-core processors and a raft of new technologies will get us most of the way there. But it will also require a change in attitude and behaviour. Meaningful engagement is more than just the sum quantity of texts, calls, pics, vids and updates. It’s about the quality of connections we make and the interactions we share. Only by enriching our conversations with the context around us — where it is, how it looks, what it sounds like, — can we truly connect.
So, let’s bring these engagement channels together so we can start getting back together.
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