Constantly Connected: How We Communicate in 2012

Growing up, many of us envisioned the future to look much like the cartoon “The Jetsons,” with computers dominating nearly every aspect of our live—from how we eat and work, to how we communicate. Now that we are grown up, it appears that vision wasn’t too far off and is actually even more sophisticated than many of us ever imagined. We have robotic vacuums, cars that drive themselves, and apps for nearly everything imaginable under the sun. In addition to making our lives more convenient, technology has drastically changed the way we interact and communicate with each other.

Wireless World
Remember the Jetson’s cool video phone? Today we have Skype and apps like Tango that allow us to video chat live with people miles, even worlds away, and we can access the technology from nearly anywhere, at anytime. Phones are no longer something mounted to your wall at home. According to a study from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, one in four U.S. households have switched from landlines to cell phone-only homes. Eighty percent of people now have cell phones and a large number have become dependent on them—Ironically, usually not for its use as a phone.

The ‘Always On’ Generation
We are now part of an ‘always on’ world, where news and information can be communicated in seconds through a growing number of outlets including traditional media like TV, radio and newspaper, which all have 24-hour online versions of their product, and social media like Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, LinkedIn, and Pinterest. We also have more tools to access that information, including computers, tablets, and smartphones.

Multi-Faceted Tools to Help Multi-Task
While immediate and constant access to information has helped us keep pace in a busy world, it has also sped up the pace of business and life. As a result, fewer people are using their phone to actually talk to each other. Instead, it has become a multifaceted tool to browse the Internet, access social media, shop, find directions, play games, listen to music, and even bank. We have become accustom to multi-tasking. According to statistics, 39 percent of smartphone owners use it in the bathroom, 33 percent use it while watching TV, and 20 percent use it while driving (which by the way, is illegal in many states, depending on how you are using it). As a result, our attention spans have shrunk and our expectations for information have become immediate—72 percent of smartphone users use the device while consuming other media. For example, if you see an actress on TV and want to know her name, instead of waiting for the credits, you could easily Google the show you are watching. Of if you hear a song, you can instantly download it on iTunes.

The Fast Pace of Technology
A large percentage of communication now takes place technologically. Here are some amazing statistics: 193,000 text messages are sent every second. Facebook, which opened to the public in 2006, now has more than 835 million subscribers worldwide. Pinterest, which just launched two years ago, gets 1.36 million visits per day. It took Twitter three years, two months and one day to hit the first billion tweets—now it only takes less than three days to clock that many. More than 60 billion tweets were sent last year alone and during this year’s Super Bowl, 12,233 tweets were being sent per second.

Connecting and Branding
While some argue all this technology removes the emotional and intimate aspect of communication, it does allow us the ability to “connect” with a growing number of people we may have otherwise lost touch with, or never met. It has also led us to others with common interests and goals. The ability to stay better informed has ultimately changed the way we make decisions.

Social media has become a way to “brand” ourselves, sharing our interests and abilities with millions of other people with just the click of a button. LinkedIn has become an important tool in the business world, making it easier to network and promote yourself or your business. Sites like Pinterest and Facebook are virtual billboards that allow us to identify and publicize our own personal brand to millions of people. Social networking has become much more than a pass time or activity these days, businesses, and schools are utilizing its popularity to teach, market, communicate, and reiterate their message.

We may not be living in space or driving flying cars yet, but in many ways our expectations and visions of the future have far surpassed the Jetsons, and will continue to progress everyday.

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Michelle Knoll is a freelance writer based out of the Twin Cities with more than 15 years experience writing for local media outlets and other various organizations. She can be reached at Michelle@KnollCommunications.com

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