The Future of Communications

NYWICI panel
(left to right) Sarah DaVanzo, Dana Points, Lisa Stone, Liz Kaplow. Photo by Jan Goldstoff.

On June 11, 2014, a panel hosted by New York Women in Communications (NYWICI) debated the shift in communications. A shift that is leading away from personal interactions toward a future obsessed with blazing-fast, always-on technology in our pockets. Is the ability to stay connected wherever we go a service or a disservice? To find out, NYWICI surveyed its members in partnership with BlogHer and discovered that 79% feel ignored when another person is using a phone during a conversation; 67% feel that multi-tasking is both a blessing and a curse; most would give up an e-reader before a phone (20% couldn’t decide). But overall, all seem to agree that technology is empowering — and disempowering them — at the same time.

Technology has certainly enabled us to do more in less time, but it has also fed the increasing expectation for us to be natural multi-taskers. As we struggle to keep up with being digitally connected, we communicate differently, and each one of us reacts to the deluge of information in our own way: Some eagerly follow a new trend (that started in Europe) to regularly detox from the digital overload — embracing not to be “in the know” and refusing to always be on. Others don’t shy away from the constant information fix; they seek the short messages, embrace the quick visuals and cherish fast shares and instant likes.

It may seem that “digital natives” have an advantage because of their constant exposure to technology from a young age — but their communication skills may lack depth; they may share more than they create and forgo genuine interpersonal interaction. This sentiment was echoed in a recent YouTube video that went viral and got more than 40 million hits, called “Look Up“, about being lonely in the midst of all your “friends”, “fans” and “followers” — when you are connected, yet alone.

Here are quick takes how the panelists assessed the way technology has changed us and what is trending in communications right now: 

Sarah DaVanzo (@culturecartog), chief cultural strategy officer, Sparks & Honey

  • Our brains are hardwired to adapt to new technologies. It is a part of life. However, the “joy of missing out” (JMO) is slowly replacing the “fear of missing out” (FMO).
  • We are moving to a more visual world: little images, emojis, and video/audio snaps are increasingly becoming part of the way we communicate. But we are leaving a lot of room for interpretation since our messages are so frequent but much shorter.
  • Emotional context is important and communicating moods is key.

Dana Points, editor-in-chief of Parents and American Baby and content director for the Meredith Parents Network 

  • “Always on” means also being a representative of your workplace all the time. There are legal implications. People have to increasingly assess how they behave.
  • Emoji is not a substitute for face-to-face communications.
  • Don’t throw away the devices but practice eye contact, shake hands and look up! Teach your kids interpersonal skills

Lisa Stone (@LisaStone), co-founder & CEO, BlogHer, Inc.

  • Immediate approach to communication doesn’t always equal superficial communication.
  • New communications are great for introverts: technology can help them overcome shyness. This is the rise of the introvert who shows up anyway and her voice will be counted.
  • The most “always on,” most plugged-in members on our executive team are women; in general, they use 40% more social media than men do.

And what the panelists believe communications will look like five years from now:

Sarah DaVanzo

  • One very important skill for the future will be the focus quotient (FQ): Technology with empathy, even without having eye contact.
  • Tracking and analyzing users’ mood will become more important. We will add mood context to our communications and anticipate moods with algorithms.
  • We will be speaking and thinking in visuals, via emojis and symbols. Fast Company has already appointed an emoji editor. Learn the alphabet! Visual analytics will become very sophisticated. Brush up on your Photoshop skills! Video staging will become more important and so will holograming and teleconferencing. We will use graphic resumes in our job search, with infographics and short vine video clips.

Dana Points

  • The tendency will grow to “borrow someone else’s funny” and his or her creativity. There will be a high price tag attached for being the original, since very few people create the original content that the majority shares.

Lisa Stone

  • Even in the future, there will be a need for great netiquette while interacting with other people. Dig in and really share. Rely on trusted behavior: quote the original source. The more we change with the technologies, the more the basic standards of excellent writing, respect for the reader and trust could erode.


Also published on Medium.

Published by

Tekla Szymanski

Tekla is a New-York based independent content strategist and front-end web developer, a multilingual journalist, writer and editor (both offline and online).

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