I came out to my car with my groceries and the car next to me was so close that I couldn’t get in from the driver’s side. I looked at their car to see why they did this? It was obvious. They wanted more room for themselves on their driver’s side. It was all about them. They were oblivious to what another driver might need. So I climbed in on the other side and had to jump over the stick shift. Yes, I drive a manual. I got in and then thought about how people live now. It is all about them. “Me” not “you.”
This is one reason why social media works. Facebook is about “you” building and connecting to “your” friends. It’s about sharing what you like, liking what others do, and showing off what you do. Twitter is even more about “you.” Yes, you can use these tools to think beyond yourself. You can use these tools to promote and share. But they became big because of how they are about “You.” Even Linkedin as a professional tool is about building up “you” to the world. It’s about how many connections you have and who these connections are. It’s also pretty cool to be endorsed and recommended by certain people.
When it comes to being connected, we are more connected today than ever before. Almost everyone has to have a smartphone, especially teenagers. They have to be available immediately to their friends. Texting is now bigger than email and using the phone. That’s old school. With unlimited texting packages, we can write back and forth whenever we want with as many words as we want. And we do.
According to Experian, in March 2013, U.S. smartphone owners aged 18 to 24 send 2,022 texts per month on average — 67 texts on a daily basis — and receive another 1,831. New studies are coming out with over 80 average texts daily. Mobile chats are starting to grow also.
Interpersonal relationships mean more to most kids than their own families. They check their phone often. This is why texting why driving is such a problem. Smartphones alert you when there’s a text, a tweet, or some other response or nudge about almost anything. You are “always” connected to your network unless you turn your phone off. If they turn off their phones, they lose their connections. They have to answer right away or their friends will keep texting and eventually call. They are thinking “there must be something wrong if you are not answering ME.”
Personalized is more than the phone though. Your shopping is “personalized” based on what you bought before, and you don’t have to go to the store physically anymore. Everything is on Amazon or eBay. You are not tied to a television schedule anymore. You can watch what you want using Hulu or Netflix. Why get a newspaper, when CNN and USA Today are online? Everything is there at your fingertips when you want it. This is why traditional delivery of information is dying away. It’s not because it isn’t good; it’s about supply and demand. The 16-24 crowd finds it old school. It is old school to have a landline phone, a newspaper, going to the store to shop, and “school” as we know it.
You knew I was going to get to this eventually. If we want to reach our kids and help them become global citizens, we need to use the tools they are used to. But we need to demonstrate how to use these tools effectively and guide them so they think beyond themselves. If we ban smartphones, we lose our kids. It’s like the old saying “if we can’t beat them, join them.” But it’s really not about kids only. I have a smartphone and text. I’m connected to my children and my friends. But I would never park my car so close that someone could not get into their driver’s side of their car.
It is about our mindset. We can focus on learning that is personal, but we need to teach and model compassion, kindness and empathy. We need to demonstrate what it is to be part of a social network and how to look beyond yourself. We also need to use these tools so kids can learn the way they learn best. Take advantage of them. But we also need to show them that they need to look up and out at the world. Connect with others to not only build connections but to share what you learn and learn from others. Teach the skills to recognize bias, validity and authenticity. Help them to be able to articulate intelligently and thoughtfully. This is their future and right now I’m a little concerned if they are ready for it.