Disconnection In A Connected World

A recent New York Times article shed light on a very interesting comparison: conversation versus connecting. Often we hear about and/or have discussions about contacting versus connecting, but this one feels new. Since when has conversation been considered different from connecting? 

Has the definition of connecting actually become a disconnect? Perhaps it lost the humanity, only to become a term to refer to the signal on the devices in front of us? Or does it simply mean the term has evolved to take on a new and more relevant meaning, like Old English to Modern English?

More likely than not, it is a combo of all the above ... and then some. And, if you really think about it, the comparison between the two could even be perceived as the Millennial versus non-Millennial way.

As noted in the above-mentioned article, “Always-on/always-on-you devices provide three powerful fantasies: that we will always be heard; that we can put our attention wherever we want it to be; and that we never have to be alone. Indeed, our new devices have turned being alone into a problem that can be solved.” 

And, “when people are alone, even for a few moments, they fidget and reach for a device. Here, connection works like a symptom, not a cure, and our constant, reflexive impulse to connect shapes a new way of being.”

To answer the question posed by the author, yes, connection is a symptom of our new reality. But, that is not necessarily a bad thing. 

What this means is that brands must continue to adapt and invest in myriad new ways to connect with Millennials …  and more. Connections are something that simply exist nowadays because of the ubiquity of and reliance on technology, with the quantity of connections varying across the generation of almost 80 million. It’s what happens after the connection, the approach to communicating that is the conversation. 

Brands must adapt their approaches to be relevant and purposeful, in a Millennial way. Two such examples of adapting have been all over the news and include two different parents who decided to discipline their daughters via Facebook: the father from North Carolina made a video of the execution of his daughter’s laptop (courtesy of his own gun) to punish his daughter for bad-mouthing him on Facebook and the mother from Ohio replaced her daughter's profile picture with a photo of the girl with a red X superimposed over her mouth and the message, "I do not know how to keep my ... I am not longer allowed on Facebook or my phone. Please ask why, my mom says I have to answer everyone that asks."

While these examples are extreme, regardless of their effectiveness, they demonstrate the shift in non-Millennials recognizing the differences and adapting their approaches to be able to engage in a conversation with Millennials.

So, brands, keep up the efforts to remain relevant and establish the connections with Millennials à la technology.  But, make sure you take it further as it is what happens after the connection that really counts. 

Tags: gen y
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1 comment about "Disconnection In A Connected World ".
  1. Ford Kanzler from Marketing/PR Savvy , April 27, 2012 at 1:07 p.m.
    This (above) is a thought-provoking post. However, it feels like we're playing with semantics on the "connected vs. conversation" definition. "Words don't mean, people mean." Thank you S.I. Hiyakawa. Language evolves. We now apply the delightfully PC term "issues" for good, old-fashioned "problems." As far as the real difference in meaning goes, suggest electronic "connection" is not anything like real, live, analog, one-on-one, attention-focused conversation regardless of what decade you were born in. Digital message swapping, regardless of its sweeping power and speed, comes in a very distant second place as far as communications quality is concerned. If using their web connection makes a person feel like they're having a real conversation that substitutes for the real thing, that's their definition but I suggest they're fooling themselves. Distance learning, as good as it may be, isn't the same as classroom participation. We are analog, not digital beings. A LOT of stuff is missed from a distance. Meillennials or others may learn this at some point. They're not some new, higher order species regardless of their behavior and technology use. As to not being alone while digitally connected or even touching/holding someone, come on boys and girls, we're ALL ALONE. We always have been and always will be. This IS the human condition. We can only work toward overcoming our human solitude in various ways including tribal, collegial, familial or romantic ways. What I wonder about is when or whether the digital ADD/Addiction/Cool Factor we see so currently prevelent, across various generations, will ever wear off. While the technology clearly has many up sides which I enjoy as much any anyone, "Smart phone facination" has serious PROBLEMS that are seemingly preventing lots of people from having meaningful conversations instead of just connecting. Lonely in a crowd isn't pretty, analog or digital. Perhaps being digitally-connected makes some feel they're somewhat less alone. It may also help those who cannot converse well directly. The NYTimes article that precipitated your post and the comments on it were also provoking in the discussion of the differences between live and digitally written (edited/polished) messages and the increased potential for notably less honest or even outright deceitful communications. That's a larger topic.