Friday, January 10, 2014

Expectations in the Connected Age

Not much research has been done on this, but this is a subject ripe for the times.

When most people have a phone and an internet device always on them, what kind of increased expectations does this introduce?

Here are some examples:

If a family member calls and you are not able to pick up the phone, you are expected to call back as soon as possible.  Otherwise they will feel alarmed that something has happened to you and might call you again and again.

If there is a work-related email, you have to check it.  Otherwise you might miss something important that others are in the know about.

If there is a personal email, you have to check it.  Maybe there is a person who is trying to reach you on the phone but isn't able to.

Since many people are using Facebook instead of email these days, you should check Facebook messages every so often in case somebody is trying to reach out to you.  Or if someone is trying to tell you something about tomorrow's plans etc.

If you don't respond to an SMS, this might signal to the other person that you don't want to respond.  After all, responding to an SMS takes just a second.  It is impossible that the SMS hasn't reached them.

If you call someone and even if you just wanted to chit chat, always leave a voice mail saying that you just wanted to say hello.  Otherwise they will wonder what's up and feel alarmed.

If someone sends you a friend request, and you don't accept it, the real-life friendship is pretty much over.  It is counted as an insult.

If, on a weekend, you are driving or are in a theater or are otherwise in a situation where you cannot access your smartphone, people might assume that you are acting too busy and they might feel insulted if you don't answer your phone or reply to their SMS immediately.

If someone calls you, you are unable to pick up the phone, and you call them back in a few minutes and they don't pick up the phone, you might want to assume that they are butt-hurt.  After all, they just called you.  Where did they go suddenly?

If someone sends you an email and you respond to it after a few days, people will feel you are a good fellow but one who is just too busy.  If you don't respond at all, well then, you are a disorganized or worse, inconsiderate, fellow.


I think being constantly connected is a great boon, but it also introduces peculiar kinds of stresses.

I once thought of a patent-able idea that one could set a "status indicator" which would apply to all of communication channels: phone, email, messenger, etc.  It would signal back to the caller that the recipient is "in a meeting" or "unavailable till 4pm" or some such.

NOT communicating/responding is also a form of communication.  When it is assumed that you always are connected (which is not an unreasonable assumption these days), then not responding immediately signals disinterest or competing priorities.  Is that good or bad for relationships?  It does more harm than good, for sure.  Expectations need to be reasonable, but that is easier said than done.

The stress is on both sides.  The device-holder, if deprived of the device, might feel that he/she is missing out on a lot of interesting/important things which other people are privy to. It is rarely true, but taking away someone's connectivity feels like they have been blindfolded.  There have been many reported incidents where there have been riots when at a particularly anticipated moment, the cable TV connection was not working or if the internet connectivity was fast enough.

Smartphones are an altogether new sense organ.  Better keep them charged!

Otherwise, who knows what life-altering communication one might miss!

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