Recently, I have been having discussions with colleagues about the trends in methods for person-to-person communication. The explosion in social media has changed the landscape in an obvious and fundamental way, but I am most interested in the human reaction to the forms available. This leaves me wondering what people really
prefer. Based on zero scientific research, I tend to believe we prefer asynchronous communications for most of our interactions. A perfect example of this is e-mail overtaking the use of phone calls. It seems as though we like the privacy afforded by a mediating technology like Facebook, so we can decide if
we want to comment on something, and when
. Most people I know turn off their chat feature. Heaven forbid that people know you are “available." Who even answers their phone without knowing that it is either an emergency or someone you really needed to talk to right then? Of course, while texting can be a bit more real-time, you really don’t have to respond and can end any text string with an excuse, like “My battery died." I have to wonder if these methods will eventually degrade our ability to be able to have intelligent, dynamic, live conversations. Maybe we will need long pauses in conversation as we muse about the appropriate responses. ...Come to think of it, for many this will be a welcome improvement.
This idea extends to the physical with respect to meeting in person. Back in my days of working with the folks at PictureTel
in the early '90s, one would have thought that every meeting and even every phone call would be held via video by now. Today, most of us have virtual meeting technology at our fingertips to do just that, with Skype
, and the myriad of other available options. Despite that, it appears that we don’t care to see each other quite as much as I would have expected. The asynchronous method of watching a conference proceed via streaming, even after the meeting is over, is very popular. Even people using conference technology like WebEx
rarely utilize the built-in video features in my experience. I think there are some interesting sociological trends buried in the technology use models for communications and obviously a huge market for the ones that hit. Are people simply more comfortable in hiding?