I was visiting a beach community recently and went for my early morning walk along the boardwalk where all of the shops, coffee shops and restaurants were located. Outside of the corner coffee shop were about 15 to 20 “old timers” as I affectionately call them. With their coffee in hand, not one phone in sight, they were all busy chatting away with one another covering a variety of topics … active communications in progress. I stopped in my tracks. Because the future scared me.
What will this scene look like in 20 years? Will there be anyone standing outside the coffee shop chatting? What if there’s no one? Or, will there be people chatting but looking down at their phones, not engaging in eye contact? Will there be a smaller group of people standing there but not talking to one another?
I thought it was interesting to find this tidbit from the Pew Research Center and their 2015 survey on cell phone usage, “… around one-quarter (23%) of cellphone owners say that when they are in public spaces they use their phone to avoid interacting with others who are near them at least occasionally, including 6% who do this frequently.” Will this happen with more frequency as we become less adept at human interactions?
Last spring my family and I were in an airport in Puerto Rico waiting for our departing flight. While we were all passing the time on our phones, our six-year-old was busy making friends. He started talking to two young adults who were making jewelry trying to raise money for a cause. My son kept running back and forth showing off the beaded rings and bracelets. He was excited to show them to us and kept telling us about the guys and what they were doing and why. Who was getting more out of that time in the airport terminal? Us on our phones or the six-year-old?
In marketing and communications we talk about story-telling but it’s often in the context of online content. Take a lesson from a six-year-old and the group of 80-year-olds at the coffee shop and be inspired by your fellow human beings, and their stories, in real life. And, if you are reading this blog on your phone. Don’t. Put the phone down and find the nearest person and have a conversation, eye contact and all.