I have had a few conversations about technology and the generation gap this week. It got me thinking about some distinctions I see in the way common tech tools are used between Gen X’ers like me and Gen Y and Millenials. Here are three common tools I use regularly that my little brothers and their friends would scoff at:
Old School: Business Cards.
You are at a social function or business event and you strike up a conversation about widgets with Bob from Acme, Inc. You and Bob hit it off and realize you may be able to help each other or share valuable advice somewhere down the line. What do you do? Exchange business cards, of course. At least that is what you might do if you are over 30 years old.
New Generation: Social Media.
My little brothers may never have business cards. I stopped carrying them myself more than a year ago. I struck up a conversation with a gentleman at a restaurant a few weeks ago. Turned out we are both vegans and read a lot of the same material. He asked for my business card as he extended his. I asked him to hold his card while I snapped a picture of it with my phone. I explained I no longer use business cards and rather than collect and store them in a folder or wallet I will rarely look at, I instead snap pictures of the cards and upload them to my free Evernote account. When I need to find a card or contact info, I open a browser wherever I am and search for the person’s name (or any text in the picture) and Evernote pulls it up. The gentleman (a little sheepishly) then asked for my card. I smiled and said, “My business card is Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, MichaelSalamey.com, or you can just do a Google Search for me. Do you have a cell phone? Just put my Google Voice number in your contacts and be sure to spell my name right. Now you can find me anytime, follow me socially, text me, or give me a call whenever you need me. Who needs a business card?”
My new friend Patrick followed a similar route. I met him at a party the other day, and he noticed I had a blackberry device, as did he. He sent his contact info and Blackberry Messenger virtual business card via Bluetooth directly to my phone. He snapped a picture of me with his phone and stored it in his contacts. Now we have pictures of each other, we can instant message, or communicate via Facebook, etc. We could even share our geographic location with each other, at our discretion, via Google Lattitude.
Augmented Reality applications offer even better, sleeker ways to network and interface with new people. Soon your phone will use facial recognition to pull up all the social media information you want about a person (or that they want you to have).
Old School: Voicemail.
My cousin Abe trained me to stop leaving him voicemail about a year ago. I would call and leave a message and he would call back a few minutes later, asking if I had called. I would say, “Yes. I left a message.” He would patiently remind me that he never checks his messages. One day, just to illustrate his point, he called his voice mail on speaker phone. He had 43 messages. 43! They went back several months. “See?” he said, “Why do people even leave voicemails anyway? That’s what caller ID is for.”
I thought this was just Abe’s way of being eccentric, but my little brothers stopped checking their voicemail too. It is pointless to leave a message on their phone. Some of my younger friends do not even bother to set it up on their phones.
New Generation: IM, SMS, or Google Voice.
A few weeks ago, while chatting with Jody Thompson, she asked if I noticed that teens do not use voicemail. I brought up my little brothers, and thought of Abe. It turns out voicemail is going the way of the Atari 2600 for most young people. A friend noted he is annoyed when people leave voice messages. “Why not just text me instead of making me log into my voicemail every time someone leaves a message, listen to the time/date stamp, and then their boring rant before they just get to the point? Send a text—I know what you want immediately and I can probably respond in 140 characters or less.”
Texting and Instant Messaging is what the tech-savvy do. I’m a little ahead of the curve on this one. I use Google Voice (perhaps my all-time favorite application). One of its many wonderful features is “voice-to-text”. When someone leaves a voicemail, it appears on my phone as a text message. I can play the audio or respond via text.
Old School: Cell Phone.
Abe joked on my Facebook wall that he downloaded an application for his Blackberry that allowed him to use the device to send and receive telephone calls. I thought that was funny because like many power-users, I rarely use my cell phone as an actual phone.
New Generation: Smart Phone.
The vast majority of time spent using my phone is to take advantage of its multimedia capabilities, to browse the web, or to manage tasks and calendars. I spent less than 200 minutes of time actually “talking on the phone” last month. Cell phones (and many home phones) have been replaced by “Smart Phones”—phones capable of doing much more than make and accept voice calls. None is more popular than the IPhone, of course, but I wonder how long the concept of a phone will be around.
Apple’s mega-popular IPad (which I suspect has forced Microsoft to reconsider its options) has already given a glimpse of a near future where the phone is as archaic as the Model T. With an ultra-thin high-resolution tablet PC and clever use of Bluetooth and applications like Google Voice, the phone as we once knew it, may soon be as irrelevant as… well… this. (That’s nerd humor; for non-techies, you have to click on the word “this” to get the joke).