I heard a young man (Generation Y) ask me to finish this sentence about himself, “I am technology _________.” The obvious answer was “savvy,” but the answer he was looking for, to describe his generation and many who will follow, was “dependent.” We’re through the looking glass here and into all new technology territory. Savvy has given way to dependent. It has taken place without a warning or even a tell-tale sigh. And dependent has major implications for brands, educators, employers and relationships.
There is no more nice to have internet connection. It’s the new blood flow the necessary neuro-transmitter. Millions of people found that out the hard way when Hurricane Sandy destroyed the electrical grid earlier this year. Children and parents saw their devices slowly deplete battery charges and in a split second, connection evaporated. They could’t check the weather, transfer money, shop, take care of the to do list, accept new friend requests and the most troubling of all, couldn’t check into their local gin mill to retain the mayorship. Desperate times for sure.
A new era of preparedness has dawned and we need to take steps to ensure we don’t allow our savviness to be crippled by dependence. Certainly we have been dependent prior to the device age. But it was a different kind of dependence. The power going out meant we worried about the meat in the freezer and we couldn’t watch our favorite television show. We didn’t worry about much else except for keeping warm, or cool. After all the phone almost always worked when the power went out. Why was that anyway?
My brother-in-law lives in Eastern New Jersey and was one of the many who lost power for nearly a week. He is a tech wizard who works for a large pharma company so he has smarts and is highly resourceful. He created a set-up that kept his family connected and protected throughout the hardship. It was a bit crude and assembled on the fly, but it worked. He transferred the power from one area of the home to another as dictated by current needs. TV for football, lights to read and converse and once in a while he’d plug in the refrigerator so there would be fresh food.
Dependency can sometimes be a gateway drug to addiction. Using your device as a utility is perfectly fine. Compulsively checking it is a possible red flag that might reveal deeper issues. WebMD has a technology addiction entry on their site. Firms in Silicon Valley are very concerned that the constant yearning for the latest ping or update makes workers less productive. Brands fight to break into the content stream that’s flooded with more important messages. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, widely viewed as the authority on mental illnesses, plans next year to include “Internet use disorder.” Hello world.
Brands should take a conscious and measured approach to what they put online and how it will be consumed. Digital responsibility should be added to the governance and content guidelines for brands. By adopting oversight that ensures content and functionality is utility in nature will foster healthy digital relationships between brands and their customers. I realize this is an early on concept and most brands won’t believe it should be on the radar, but the pace at which technology advances is often underestimated by large firms.
Casting aside consumer health for profit is not a long term strategy.