I own a smartphone, but I belong to the few people that do not have a data plan. So, during my commute, instead of staring at the screen I – rather ironically perhaps – enjoy watching other people staring at their screens.
Then I arrive at work, and I stare at a screen all day long too… For me, however, this is purely a work activity. In my spare time, it’s entirely up to me to choose to “be plugged in” or not. I have to admit, even without a data plan, I’m plugged in way too much – thank you Wi-Fi.
What is it that makes people spend so much time online?
I went online – of course – to answer this question, and found a research paper that offers some possible answers.
It’s not news, but people go online to find information, explore, research and to find advice – Just Google it! We’re also seeing more and more people go online for social interaction: to chat, share photos and videos, and to build relationships. They go online to express themselves, to seek recognition, and to be entertained. The online world also provides people with plenty of opportunities to procrastinate.
Basically, aside from looking up information, people go online to satisfy their social needs.
Needs that social media caters to.
But how does this affect society?
Whether or not social media actually connects people – or tears them apart – is an on-going debate. There is plenty of research out there that analyses social media’s effect on society.
A quick look at a few aspects of our Internet activities reveals that the boundaries between being online for work or leisure are blurred. Social media network sites have become a platform for all kind of activities, for personal and business uses. This is especially the case for younger employees today, who expect to have the freedom to interrupt work to manage their private affairs. That said, this is also the generation that answers emails and takes phone calls after official office hours.
Smartphones definitely help create and perpetuate this phenomenon. Smartphones give us the flexibility of connectivity. The downside of this flexibility is the created pressure to be available around the clock, the where, when and how work gets done is less static. Employees are mobile, thanks to digitalisation and the Internet. This, of course, can improve the work-life balance, but also runs the risk of increasing stress.
How does online connectivity affect the way people perceive and interact with information?
Back in the day – actually less than 10 years ago – people were focused on one device when consuming media, today’s digital media is absorbed using different mediums, usually simultaneously. However, while watching TV is rather a passive activity, interaction on social media platforms is alive. People share and engage with content and expect real-time management and live chat services when interacting with companies.
This development requires companies to adapt. 24/7 connectivity and access to information from the remotest corners of the globe means that consumer behaviour is more complex.
Consumers can look up information anywhere at any time, meaning they know everything – well, at least everything listed on Google’s first page. Digitalisation and social media put the consumer in the driver’s seat. They now have a stronger voice. A voice that has the power to advocate for or against a brand just by hitting the “post” button on any social media platform. Today the consumer is king – a king with the power to decide which company lives and dies.
“A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” – Scott Cook
Whilst many people use reviews to express recognition for a job well done, even more, write product reviews with the aim to protect others from bad experiences. Such reviews and product rates then also are the most preferred source where people inform themselves about the quality of a product or service.
That’s also valid outside the business world:
Social media empowers people. It gives people a voice, allowing us to spread ideas and initiatives easier and faster than ever. This enhances free speech, giving people the opportunity to express their opinions about things like environmental sustainability and politics. Whilst traditional media originally had the power to choose what information is relevant to the world, often choosing to focus on particular subjects. Essentially, traditional media was the information gatekeeper. Now, digital media – in most countries – has given us the keys to global communication, revolutionising the way the world is connected.
This post is brought to you by one of AQ’s Undergraduates, Alexa V. As part of our internship programs, undergraduates and classic interns are encouraged to take part in company culture. Alexa’s primary focus is in digital marketing.