Are We Too Connected?

Technology-Graphic

Brad Paisley has a song, “Welcome to the Future”, where he reminisces about childhood wishes, such as being able to watch TV on long trips and having arcade games at home. Now these things are available on his phone, from the palm of his hand. This kind of modernization is exciting and intoxicating. What was once thought impossible is now possible. We are lead to believe that if we just get connected and live in the digital stratosphere our lives will be easier, simpler, and smarter. With a simple press of a button we can manage bank accounts, buy products, play a game, or connect with people and brands we love. Even social media sites provide the ability to connect, but without face-to-face or telephonic conversations. We are easily convinced to join, like, share, upload, click, or check in. But, what’s the price we pay to reach ultimate connectivity? Is being so digitally connected really helping us or making us smarter?

A 2012 research report by Pew Research Center describes how analysts believe many young people growing up in today’s networked world and counting on the Internet as their external brain will be nimble analysts and decision-makers who will do well. However, these experts also expect that constantly connected teens and young adults will
thirst for instant gratification and often make quick, shallow choices. Survey respondents think educational reform and greater emphasis on social skills will be necessary in the future. Moreover, 42 percent of survey respondents agreed with the statement:

“In 2020, the brains of multitasking teens and young adults are ‘wired’ differently from those over age 35 and overall it yields baleful results”

The survey presents some interesting insights about concerns in the decline of deep analytical skills, critical thinking, and the ability of young adults to focus for long periods of time. Yet, Christopher Ferguson’s main point is that America is in a state of “moral panic.” This state of moral alarm is very similar to the outrage that shook up the nation’s prevailing, orthodox mores at the advent of cultural events such as comic books, rock and roll, and Dungeons and Dragons.

Is emerging technology presenting truly smarter options or are we sacrificing precious social and analytical skills in order to live by machine? As Sophocles once said, “Nothing vast enters the life of mortals without a curse.”

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Let’s Get It Started

Our lives are surrounded by various forms of media – both traditional media forms, such as print, television, and telephonic, as well as emerging media, such as video, mobile, and social media.  Before jumping in to various topics on emerging media, let’s consider what is meant by the term.  According to West Virginia University’s IMC 619 Emerging Media and the Market class, emerging media is a “global term to cover social, digital and mobile communications”.  Think about how the vast array of devices interact with our daily lives.  It is an integral part of how we function and the majority of the population seems to have access to this emerging technology.  Pew Research Center states that 90 percent of people have a cell phone with 58 percent having a smart phone.  The capabilities of emerging media have surpassed what most people thought was possible just a few years ago.  Today, people can move seamlessly between conversations, web browsing, social interaction, etc. all from the palm of their hand.  Such levels of engagement and connection have also created a huge dependency on this type of media.  Most people admit they cannot do without their cell phone.  In fact, Pew’s Research shows that 44 percent of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night and 29 percent admit they cannot imagine living without their cell phone.

For marketers, the constant change in the emerging media landscape is dizzying and the capabilities require  constant nimbleness and creativity.  However, a marketer’s best friend in the emerging media market is data.  The more the better.  Marketers are using data to zero in and personalize their message to specific audiences.  Companies are turning to computer models that analyze massive pools of information to make inferences about health, personality traits, and even mood in real-time, in order to help them predict, and ultimately influence, the customer’s next purchase.  The sophisticated way in which it is now possible to gather or collect information about a consumer resembles a science fiction movie (think Minority Report).  Except the technology isn’t futuristic.  It is here.

While emerging media may seem invasive or intrusive, most consumers prefer to have an emotional connection with brands.  Michael Lazerow, the chief marketing officer of the Salesforce ExactTarget Marketing Cloud, states that “the value of targeted marketing isn’t just from the marketing message itself, it’s from the intelligence and optimization” — data — “with each interaction that builds a one-to-one relationship with each customer to increase brand loyalty and drives sales.” There is a delicate balance between giving the customer what they want without being seen as intrusive.  Emerging media will always push the envelope and make us think and act in a whole new (and hopefully) smarter way.