Our Many New Phones

Type Writer old phone We have really messed ourselves up, haven’t we? It used to be that we could expect correspondence from two (at most three) ways: phone, mail, face to face. Look at us now. Have we really improved the world?

I woke up this morning and realized that I now check the following:

  • Email (3 accounts)
  • Facebook
  • SMS/text
  • Twitter
  • Voicemail (woe to you who leave me voicemail)
  • Third Tribe Marketing
  • LinkedIn
  • Google Wave
  • Comments back to people who’ve commented on my blog or others (not always, but I try)
  • Contact form (thank you, Steve Brogan, for blocking and tackling most of this)
  • Face to face

I’m not alone. This isn’t just me doing this. Companies are faced with this.

Marcel LeBrun, CEO of Radian6, has been talking about the “social phone” for a long time. “The social phone is ringing. Is your company answering?” That’s his line. I share it with as many companies as possible.

When we say it, what we’re saying is this: people have multiplied the methods by which they’re communicating. Whether or not you want to receive on all this various channels, people are speaking on them. It requires a lot of listening, a lot of processing, a lot more frenzy.

Why did we do it? Why do we set up all these channels to monitor? Because they all seem more useful when we start them. They all are more useful in one format or another. But they get quite burdensome taken en mass. We’ve taken on several methods that all require checking to stay abreast.

Heck, that’s why smartphones are pretty much required. My Droid lets me see all those various channels (well, most of them). It’s what we do.

Is it better for us? Is this what we should all be doing? How should we spend our time? What would we do to put the genie back in the bottle? Or could we?

Photo credit glen edelson

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  • http://www.danieldecker.net Daniel Decker

    It's like TV or Radio in a way. Once there were just a few channels and now there are hundreds. Simply can't watch them all. As volume rises, fragmentation begins. We have to choose. Sometimes I feel like I spend more time flipping through the channels than actually watching or listening to the content. The Social Phone is kind of the same. I'm not sure that will change anytime soon. The shine is too great. Our fascination with NEW is too strong.

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  • http://itarsenal.com/ Rob

    This is why “disconnecting” is getting more and more important to pay attention to…too much of all this will spin you upside down. Chris, you should know.

    Interesting you list them all like that…it screams online product to me. What service out there can combine all of those for me in one place in a simple list form. Right now with enough “hooking up” of services…I can get every thing you listed (minus third tribe, but including blog comments via disqus) in two tabs. Hootsuite and Google Mail. Not too bad actually.

  • http://www.synapticlight.com/ SynapticLight

    Google Wave is still out there?
    I find myself thinking of them as bunch of loudhailers in a big box; each one designed to fire off a word or sentence out a window.
    If they were telephones then there would be someone on the otherside saying hi, how are you = or better yet, siyabona :) more often.

    It is better in a way that it provides us another mechanism to a different audience that we may not have know of before.
    but bad, because we spend too much time picking up the phone/s to see if there is someone on the otherside

  • http://twitter.com/lebrun Marcel LeBrun

    Hey Chris – you ask great questions as always. I sometimes wonder if the increasing breadth of communication channels (or “social phones”) is having an impact on the depth of our communication, at least at a personal level? Personally, I see more benefit than downside since I can stay in touch with people that are important to me, even if it isn't quite to a depth that I'd like.

    We just need to make sure that we don't become slaves to the very tools designed to help us be human, right?! Not easy.

    Cheers & thanks for sharing the social phone quote.
    Marcel

  • cathyd0105

    The genie won't go back in the bottle. That said, not all of us use all the channels. Some of these channels are age/generation-driven (texting, Facebook), and some of them have mutated from their original use to the monster of “because you can, you should”. (I'm thinking, particularly, of work emails.) Used to be that emails were important, but less intrusive (and therefore less necessary to attend to) than phone calls. Now that you can have your emails pushed to you in your smart phone, that has gone by the wayside.

    I'm 48 years old, and my priorities for contacts are: face-to-face, telephone, voice mail, email, text. In that order. The person with me will always get priority over a phone call or a blinking red light on my BB or a chime indicating a text. (That was the rule I was taught at 16 in my first job: the customer in the store has precedence over the one on the phone. :) )

    I still believe much of this communication overload craziness is self-induced. Turn the phone off (or to silent) at night. Or when you're with someone else. If a potential prospect gets wigged out, then I'm not their ideal service provider. :) They can give someone else their business.

  • http://www.boldtcommunications.com Lesli

    Wait, you forgot online dating sites if you're looking for love there. At some point, it's just another mailbox to check. And so everything old – including good old face-to-face dating – becomes new again….

  • http://www.convinceandconvert.com jaybaer

    Guess what? We built this Frankenstein. Why? Because our customers and contacts demanded more and different ways to interact with us. The problem isn't the technology, or even the litany of contact points. The problem is that we haven't adapted our businesses yet to this new reality. There was a time where we didn't have to check email. But we adapted. There was a time we didn't have phones. Or fax. Or Fedex. Or microwave popcorn. But we adapted. We just need to make the root changes necessary to succeed in this new world, and largely, we haven't. Yet.

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  • http://twitter.com/tedbradford2 Ted Bradford II

    Another great post man. You ask, “Is it better for us”?… I think for some yes. I'm a Net Admin and am essentially “on” 365. It makes sense for me to monitor everything, as it allows for me to prioritize and have a life. I feel for many, all methods are interrupting human interaction. My family doesn't know it yet, but Tech Geek here is implementing “Tech Free Time” M-F once school resumes. No pc/Macs, phones (unless its an emergency), psp's/Wiis/ps3s, etc. Everyone should go dark periodically ;-)
    Per the genie… it's never going back in.

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  • http://johnmclachlan.ca/ John McLachlan

    Cathy, I'm a year older than you and perhaps, like acting according to a demographic have the same list in the same order that you posted: “face-to-face, telephone, voice mail, email, text.”

    I also think you are dead-on when saying this stuff is self-induced. I'm not some old fart who is looking to go back to some “good old days” at all. I love these these tools and potential of them and new ones, but I think all of us, older, younger and in between who are using this vast array of communication tools are losing perspective. We are like addicts who can't even imagine life with out booze or drugs or whatever. We stop even thinking how we are living could be different.

  • http://johnmclachlan.ca/ John McLachlan

    Karen: Great way of putting it, “living rather than monitoring life.” That is what we do when we check on people's tweets and other feeds but I'd even argue that is what happens when we ourselves tweet. We're monitoring our own lives instead of living more richly.

  • http://johnmclachlan.ca/ John McLachlan

    Bill, how sad, but how incredibly true.

    For the first time, I'm having an internal debate about getting a new iPhone (but it could be any piece of technology) in that I just think of the current one and what I'll do with it. Heck, I still have the 2nd generation one kicking around. Even giving it away to someone else is not a perfect solution.

    We just never slow down and it's crazy from an environmental perspective but also an internal “I've lost my mind, I'm crazy for technology” perspective. How healthy is that?

  • Nicole Comrie

    I completely understand where you are coming from. When I look at technology I always think does this make our lives better or just easier? Most of the time only the latter is true.

    – Nicole

  • http://christophercatania.com Chris Catania

    I've begun to see that each of those channels of communication you listed have become necessary because the people with who we all communicate, tend to communicate in different ways. And each channel allows us to send our messages differently and send different types of messages.

    So, yes, even though it might appear that we've let the “genie” out of the bottle, I think that the reason we have so many channels and “social phones” ringing is because we are at a point in human history where we are evolving tremendously when it comes to how we communicate and what messages we send.

    And like the evolutionary process, I think the strongest and most helpful “channels” will remain and new ones will evolve out of the ones we have. Is this good? Bad? Depends on the person and how they're using the “channels.” because we all know that they can be a great asset or a major distraction to living your life and achieving your goals.

  • keer
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    I think it would do well to engineering, at least partially inside the bottle with an emphasis on the depth and breadth in terms of quality over quantity. I just returned from a week in Mexico to visit family and despite some comments as always rehash.

  • http://www.blackfridayplanet.com/ William Hushburn

    Having said that, I think I might have been relating to your activities these days. I also wake up in the morning to check my accounts. I mean it is part of our lives now.

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  • https://www.demicast.wordpress.com/ Chad Bronze

    Wow instead of making things easier for people phones have made us do even MORE things in our already hectic life

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