Disruptive technologies do not always lead to disruption that can disturb a social norm. However, through the combination of digital technology, IP communications and devices that support mobility, we are experiencing the permanent changing of several social norms. Long held practices or appropriate behaviors are being dispensed with and the voices of those in opposition to the changes are 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 cell phones were first introduced, people still move to quiet areas to have a conversation. Now the conversation is 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 over. If a phone rings during a meeting, it is answered and often the conversation is held without the called party leaving the room. If the call is received while driving with passengers the same behavior is becoming the norm, although exiting the car would be more difficult.
- Driving without the distraction of a reading or texting is almost over, in particular for those in their twenties. 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 see tables in restaurants where the parents and children are each engaged on a smart device before, during and after eating. I have seen couples of all ages ignore each other as one or both check emails, Facebook or a tweet.
The Pew Internet in American Life Project and Harvard University’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society have reported in a study that 78% of US teens have a cell phone and 23% have a tablet with 82% owning at least one of the devices. This is a generation that 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. Check out a similar assessment with a video entitled “The Future is Ours”.