Disruptive technologies do not always lead to the disturbance of a social norm. However, through the combination of digital technology, IP communications and devices that support mobility, we are experiencing permanent changes among several social norms. Long-held practices or appropriate behaviors are being dispensed with and the voices of those in opposition to the changes are being dismissed as no longer relevant.
My observations of these changing norms are as follows:
- Conversation no longer needs to be private. Since I can call a person from anywhere I can now discuss anything. When cellphones were first introduced, people still moved to quiet areas to have a conversation. Now the conversations are conducted anywhere. I hear about money, divorces, children, legal issues and more in planes, grocery stores, elevators and restaurants.
- Acknowledging that your conversation is disrupting others is passe. If a phone rings during a meeting, it is answered and often the conversation is held without the party that received the call leaving the room. If the call is received by someone in a car with other passengers, the same behavior takes place although, understandably, exiting the car would be difficult. Apparently returning the call later is out of the question.
- Driving without the distraction of reading or texting is scarce, in particular for those in their 20s. The smartphone is either in-hand, on a lap or within easy reach to read, text or call.
- The smart or mobile device trumps the relationship. I often observe families at tables in restaurants where the parents and children are all engaged with the respective smart devices before, during and after the meal. I have seen couples of all ages ignore each other as they check emails, Facebook or a tweet.
The Pew Internet & American Life Project and Harvard Universitys Berkman Center for Internet and Society have reported in a study that 78 percent of U.S. teens have a cellphone and 23 percent have a tablet, with 82 percent owning at least one of the devices. This generation is growing up experiencing the Awesomeness of Now” as the norm. And that is a good thing. The technology that they take for granted has improved the standard of living across the globe, reduced the spread of diseases, expanded education opportunities to many and provided the environment for innovation that generates the jobs needed for our growing global population.
We live in a time when we believe we can achieve anything. Limits exist only as temporary constructs waiting for the right person or solution to remove them.
Norms have always changed. Eventually, these new technologies will be integrated into new norms. Moving forward is the way of humankind.
David Byrd is chief marketing officer and executive vice president of channel sales for
ANPI ZONE . He previously spent five years as vice president of marketing and sales for Broadvox and before that was vice president of channels and alliances for Eftia and Telcordia.