New Digital Lifestyles Won’t Get You Blind
Originally published on LinkedIn.com
“We have to stop social networks!”
This is how he entered the discussion that was going on. I was actually acting as facilitator of an “Idea Bubble” on the theme “Envisioning new digital lifestyles” at TEDxLausanne 2014. Obviously, it was a provocation. It was the best way to enter a debate when fifteen or so people are exchanging ideas and giving their opinion. Yet, the sentence also resonated like a cry of desperation over a situation that is asphyxiating him. Just like if he, this 45 years old or so man that seemed to be a manager in a multinational corporation, had to live with something he could not bear anymore – Something that he feared deeply. When I oriented the conversation on the topic of Google Glass, that man’s fear was just going stronger. He was far from being alone. In fact, his fear was shared by the majority of the audience… I started asking myself: Is technology going too fast, too far? Should we truly stop social networks?
Four years ago, I had absolutely no idea of what online marketing was about. I mean, of course I knew that I hated those ads following me everywhere from the moment I visited Zalando.ch (Well, it was probably something different than Zalando, as they entered the Swiss market two years ago) and I avoided clicking on those yellow-framed results on Google Search. But that’s about all. Four years ago, I had no smartphone (I have never been an early adopter) and no Google+ profile (again, Google+ was launched two years ago). Today, in early 2014, I co-founded and use Novertur, a b2b social network, I am active on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Slideshare, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Xing. SEM and SEO have almost no secret for me. I am constantly checking my iPhone and receiving at least 50 messages per day through the various WhatsApp groups I am involved in, while my iPad wakes me up in the morning. Today, I wear a Fitbit bracelet and connect to my Nike+ App when I go for a run. Six years ago I would have been considered a geek. Today, I am only a late adopter trying to understand how people are behaving and trying to plan ahead how they will consume. I am just a marketer in 2014.
While I am still a late adopter and remain perplexed towards some of the technological advancements, I am nevertheless not afraid. Maybe, it is because I am not overtaken by technology or maybe it is just because I like history. Lately, I discovered that at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century in France, some people believed that the speed of rail transport could make you blind and mad, while farmers feared for the well-being of their cattle because of the train. Recently, social media marketing guru and LinkedIn Influencer Gary Vaynerchukused history to answer those people fearing that new technologies might be changing our social interactions. In an article on Medium, he showed this picture of 1946, taken in the New York City Subway by Stanley Kubrick and questioned the difference with people starring at their smartphone in the subway, in 2014.
He says about this picture that “[…] every single person, even though they’re in a confined space together, aren’t paying any attention to each other because they’re reading media on a newspaper.” And he adds that “the recent version of this is, of course, cellphones and iPads, [just like on this other picture I took a couple of months ago in Lausanne] yet the same people out there who hate change continue to cry foul.”
If I completely agree with the fact that consuming media on a paper or on a digital device is exactly the same, I am not going to defend a position as strong as Gary Vaynerchuk. I think that he is going too far when saying that a young couple at dinner might better check their phones and do what they want to do, rather than “pretending to listen to each other”. I think that there is still some work to do for people to make an optimal use of new technologies.
Technology is transforming our behavior so quickly that it can definitely affect relations between people and drive to an actual lack of communication. But let’s not dramatized. Technology is opening a lot of new opportunities to human beings. Facebook enables to keep in touch with friends all over the world very easily. Instagram to share a captured-emotion instantly with the entire globe. LinkedIn to access job opportunities. Novertur to find the right business partners abroad. In order to take best advantage of these technologies, people have first to start by learning how to use them better. In this learning process, people will also understand when to use those technologies for an optimal use.
Today might not be the day when people reach this optimal use because, indeed, technology is developing very fast. But taming technology is just a matter of time – Just like the time it took French farmers to understand that their cattle won’t be hurt by the train if they take the right measures. So we should not stop social networks as we should not stop technology advancements and new digital lifestyles… We just need to take the time to learn that it won’t make us blind or mad to use social networks, just like for the train back in the Nineteenth Century.
In the end, and as usual, “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself“, as Franklin D. Roosevelt would have said.