By Nicole Campbell
It’s the 21st century, and everywhere you look, everywhere you go, you will find someone using a mobile phone or some other portable device to go online. It’s just something that we all take for granted. Yet only about twenty years ago it was all quite different; using the internet used to be strictly a “sit down” activity. Going online meant you were stuck in the house all day, spending hours parked in front of the family desktop. Little did anyone know that another seemingly unrelated piece of technology, the phone, would go on to become the internet’s most inseparable friend with the invention of the smartphone.
Of course stationary computers and laptops are still in use, but they’ve fast become second fiddle to mobile devices. In fact, wireless technology is said to have advanced faster than any other form of mass communication technology that was ever developed over the past century. Many have been pondering why this technological revolution has been so universally successful. People will ask the same questions in regards to any major cultural advancement,why has it caught on like it has, and why did humanity chose to advance in that particular direction in the first place? Of course on a practical level the reasons behind mobile tech are simple enough; that it’s just plain convenient. Having access to unlimited information whenever and wherever you need it, whether it’s doing research on health conditions, or just finding directions to the nearest pizza place, is downright addicting. And with all the other things a mobile device can be, phonebook, radio, task manager, camera, life coach, personal shopper, the sky’s the limit. Yet there’s a little more to the puzzle than just the practical uses. Many say the way communication technology evolves is governed by that most persistent of primal instincts; the need for social connection.
It has always been understood that humans are social creatures, and our need to bond with one another has influenced the evolution of society both on a conscious and subconscious level. Over past centuries, how we have bonded has always been regulated by factors like where we were born, what culture we grew up in, and our economic and social standing.
But now with the internet, we have access to people and relationship possibilities from all around the world literally at our fingertips. The interactive environment created by wireless communication has transformed mass media into a collaborative activity, something anyone can participate in and influence. People from remote areas, minorities and other folks who used to have much smaller spheres of influence can now take part in the online world, contributing knowledge and culture previously indigenous to them.
Mobile technology lets us keep our social life with us all the time, where we can always be part of the conversation and never fully away from some form of social contact. Of course this has had the unfortunate side effect of making folks feel like they can never escape from social networking and must be available around the clock. But the benefits seem to outweigh the consequences for most. To have someone to talk to, share your interests, your feelings, and your troubles with, just by reaching into your purse or pocket, seems worth it.
Another appeal is that a cell phone becomes a sort of extension of its owner. Since mobile devices, (phones in particular) tend to belong to individuals rather than being shared by a household, they have morphed into more than just pieces of equipment through which we communicate. Now they are seen as personal items that people use to help convey a self-image. Like the clothes we wear, the cars we drive or your favorite movie, your cell phone seems to say something about you as a person.
Mobile technology’s ability to reach out to practically anyone in the world allows for limitless forms of collaboration, a strong motivation for professionals and businesses to embrace this new age of mobile communication. Especially when one considers the many professions and areas where this instant communication and personalization is of immense benefit, such as wellness, personal assistance, marketing, media, even medicine and the like.
Professionals now have resources at their fingertips to work more closely with patients and clients, and also to come into contact with a wider range of potential employers, and knowledge. Professions where a job could have never been done remotely can now be easily done from across the world.
Mobile technology has changed expectations of when and where people are available, making certain work arrangements and environments dependent upon its constant use. On the business end, marketers and businesses in the mobile age have unlimited opportunities open to them. Digital devices are portals open all hours of the day and night for hundreds of millions of potential customers who turn to the online world to fulfill so many of their needs and wants. Mobile devices have even changed the way people shop, and the way their minds work when doing so. Shopping on a smartphone or tablet offers a highly personable and customized experience, one that is forcing marketers and companies to completely change the way they approach the public.
No longer are ads and commercials the only way to raise and keep awareness, the relationships between customers and product brands have become a lot more interactive.
Businesses now retain customer loyalty by being a part of their online lives, first through social networking–whether you’re an individual or a business everyone is a neighbor on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat! Social media has in fact become such an important part of our human culture and psyche, that a whopping 97% of marketers have been said to use it as part of their strategy. And frankly the other 3% must be asleep! But to capture the mobile user’s full attention professionals and companies are also creating their own apps, and more recently some have also started interacting through text messaging. More and more consumers are now opting to also text businesses and–not just their friends–to get the information they want! Today, texting is the most prevalent form of communication among those under 50.
For example, some hotel chains now allow guests to text the front desk instead of calling. Some tech companies seeing this shift in mobile use, like L.A. based technology company TENiFY, http://www.tenify.me, have created texting technology, available to everyone, that allows any name, be it of a person, business or product, to become text savvy. So that costumers can text “that” name and get automated around the clock text responses that provide the requested info and also interact with the user–not just communicating but building a relationship with that mobile user, as if a friend.
And it’s all because we have created an entirely new world in the digital dimension, a place where we go to both work and play. It’s a world that means a lot to us, one we seem to want to keep close at all times. To say that technology and the internet have sprouted legs and now walk side by side with us may have sounded like something out of science fiction back in the 20th century, but to us 21st century dwellers plunking away on our mobile companions, it’s all cool!
Nicole Campbell is a writer, and she lives in California.
Chayko, M., (2008) Portable Communities:The Social Dynamics of Online and Mobile Connectedness. Albany,NY: Suny Press.
Tuten, T., L., Solomon, M.R., (2014) Social Media Marketing. https://us.sagepub.com/enus/nam