The title of this week’s article is easily the most unusual of my writing career. My guess is no one older than half my age will have a clue what it means. Yet it sums up much of the way we gather data about our lives today.
“I want what I want when I want it.” The hashtag in the title is just a shorter way of saying the same thing, sort of a Morse code amongst the tech savvy.
The information world as we know it changed on June 6, 2007. That was the date that the Apple iPhone was first launched. While it was not the first mobile phone, it was transformative in its design and operating system. It was easy to use, intuitive and opened the door to an overwhelming amount of data.
My first mobile phone was about the same size and weight as my first video camera, which is to say it was about the size of a small bag of potatoes and weighed about the same. Today’s phones combine phone and camera, along with thousands of other uses in something about a third the thickness of a pack of cigarettes.
After 10 short years, we are seeing some of the larger ways that technology is changing society. People don’t buy as many books because they can read the latest best seller online. What is the need for a Barnes & Noble Bookstore?
You can order the most obscure item or the most fashionable clothes online and have them delivered the next day. Thanks to Amazon, shopping malls are closing around the country. A generation ago people could not have imagined that Sears, Toys R Us, Gander Mountain and Radio Shack would be on the verge of extinction.
Mobile access is changing the way we educate, eat, travel and gather news. One half of all Americans get their news from Facebook, where fake news and misinformation is so slickly done that it is hard for even the most educated readers to tell the difference.
I read the World Book Encyclopedia from A to Z as a youngster. Today’s edition is 22 volumes, 14 thousand pages and costs $849. I can google the most random subject on my phone and have an answer before I could get out my chair to pick up the World Book off the shelf. Amazingly, the information via the internet is mostly free, although not always 100 percent accurate.
What does this information change mean to advertisers? How do I sell you a biscuit or burger when 50 percent of the Millennials do not watch television? That is people roughly 35 years old or younger. The number is even less for “Screenagers”, a clever name for those even younger who have been raised with their face in a phone screen.
The average American now checks his phone over 100 times per day. Screenagers check their phones 221 times per day. Our attention span has declined to an average of 6.9 seconds.
There is even evidence that today’s phones are rewiring our brains. One early indication is the phantom vibration in your leg when your phone isn’t in your pocket. I have had that happen to me. Scary.
Our ability to remember and concentrate may also be negatively impacted. Why do you need to remember your family’s birthdates if they are on your mobile calendar? Why read a book when you can read an online article? This is especially troubling for youth who are developing habits that may last a lifetime.
A study in 2013 indicated that in just one minute, less than the time it took you to read this article, over 30 hours of YouTube videos have been uploaded to the internet. In the past minute there have been over 100,000 Tweets and over 2 million individual searches on Google. In the past 60 seconds, over 3 million photos have been uploaded to Flickr and 377,000 people have logged into Facebook. Imagine those numbers today, four years later.
We want what we want when we want it and it all happened in just 10 years. Who knows what the next decade will bring.