Landing in the Atlanta airport, my phone buzzes at me. An alert pops up telling me that my connecting flight is at Gate A20. As the phone continues to power up email notifications, text messages and other applications send me all the little reminders that the digital world is laying in predatory wait, ready to pounce on my attention the moment my focus shows a sign weakness.
When I first made the transition to a smartphone 12 months ago I was already computer literate and digitally savvy. Concerned that my sons would lack proper parental guidance for their growing digital lives, I decided I needed to advance along with the technology around us. While still young, my sons are growing up natively plugged into the digital wold. I can’t promise that I’ll stay ahead of their absorbent little sponges we call minds. But I fervently hope I can at least stay current and involved; evolving with society around me.
As I reflect back today, it strikes me how much has changed in the past year. The very core of how I communicate has fundamentally shifted. That heady anticipation of rushing home to check an answering machine evaporated some 10 years ago. This ability for people to contact me – instantly – from almost anywhere, is something truly remarkable. Now that there are so many avenues for content to be delivered to me, I find that my attention, my focus has become a premium. A premium for advertisers, a premium for my friends and even a premium for my family.
Gone are the days of random, unexpected phone calls. I find that instead of just calling me out of the blue, my friends and family will text or email me first, ensuring that it’s a reasonable time to call and that my undivided attention will be available for them. It surprises me when I call friends unexpectedly and they’ll rush to answer the phone from the shower, the bathroom, while driving or even while jogging. Profuse apologies follow a missed call. They don’t seem to understand that I don’t expect them to answer if they aren’t available to talk. I trust that they’ll return the call when they have a chance.
To me, this is symptomatic of the immediacy that the newer forms of communication provide us. When people call me, they expect me to answer right then and there no matter what is happening to me at that moment. Armed with just my phone, people can reach me by text, email, instant messaging from at least 3 different platforms, standard messaging from each social network, tweet mention, group messaging applications (like Google Plus’s Messenger), Skype and last, but certainly not least…the simple phone call. With this sheer cornucopia of choices, it’s no wonder that we’ve all begun to expect responses and answers almost immediately.
Now let’s add on the various video formats of communication. I’ve video chatted on my phone from across the room to across the deep blue ocean. Through group video chats I’ve met people from all over the world, England, Ireland, Saudi Arabia, Argentina, Mexico, Canada and all over the United States. Just last night someone joined our group from South Korea…while on his phone.
In the past year I’ve certainly broadened my horizons, but I’ve also entered the world of the “plugged in”. Never more than an arm’s reach away from my phone, my hands twitch when I hear that little “buzz buzz” that means something is waiting for me. My attention is once again split, my mind wanders as I contemplate what new story hit my reader, which friend just texted me about some inane part of their day, what that latest email has to say….
….I think my phone is buzzing….