Everyone’s been there. A wistful older person, often in the presence of those in a much younger age bracket, begins to rant on the unfortunate prevalence of technology in today’s world. The story that begins with “back in my day” usually ends with this person lamenting the fact that technology has destroyed what little human connection we have with one another.
It’s not a new argument. There are lots of people who have suggested that the mobile impact on human relationships is a negative one, such as Andrew Przybylski and Netta Weinstein, researchers at the University of Essex who found that just having a phone nearby can harm interpersonal connections, even if you don’t ever pick it up.
Despite these negative arguments, cell phones aren’t going anywhere. Pew reported last year that 90% of all U.S. adults have a cell phone, and nearly 6 out of 10 have a smartphone. Last year, the widely anticipated “tipping point” was reached, where mobile browsing eclipsed desktop browsing for the first time in history.
So what’s the real story? If mobile devices are so bad for human relationships, why are they being adopted so rapidly? Does the rise in mobile technology mean that humans are somehow growing less fond of spending time with one another? Not quite.
The Great Myth of Mobile Impact on Human Relationships
Despite what many people think, mobile devices themselves do not cause social isolation or disconnection. This misconception, although it is widely believed, is already starting to get torn down.
Consider a blog post from last year written by Boston College psychologist Peter Gray. In it, Gray challenges the long-held notion that millennials are obsessed with social media and technology, to the extent that they prefer these mediums to real-life interaction. Instead, he makes the case that young people are only using technology and social media as a way to make up for the rapidly-eroding social free time that previous generations of youth enjoyed plenty of.
The True Effects of Mobile on Human Connection
What so many people fail to realize is that how we connect is a choice; not the connecting itself. The fact is, when used properly, mobile devices provide a vehicle for extreme personalization. In a marketing context, mobile devices are perfect for businesses that want to make strides in customer experience, which has been called the most important business benchmark of modern times by Forbes. Mobile devices are a great fit for improving customer experience, since they allow organizations to reach customers and prospects in a much more intimate and . This is why so many companies are making investments into customer experience: look at IBM’s new Verse platform, which many believe will bring about a new way to work, combining social and Watson Analytics in the cloud to power smarter email. The whole concept of this new platform is built around improving customer experience, regardless of the device it’s being consumed on.
It’s important to remember the one concept that disproves the theory that mobile devices inhibit relationships is a simple one: human connection. As long as humans have a desire to connect with one another (read: forever!), mobile devices will never erode these interpersonal relationships, and marketers won’t need to decide whether they are B2C or B2B: they can simply focus their efforts on improving their H2H, human-to-human conversations and relationships.