Making a Connection With The Over-Connected
“Today we’re more connected than ever. More pics, more clicks, more chats and snaps, likes, texts, PMs and DMs. But the more we talk, the less words mean. We’re treading water in a sea of connections looking for something more.
We’re searching for someone. Grasping for genuine something that embraces sincerity in the face of cynicism. It’s not about needing someone but wanting them. It’s the moment you choose to go all in. Cut the parachute chord and enjoy the free fall.
This is what it all comes down to. Two people in one moment living something real. But something real is rare.
You’re not going to see it too often. And at the end of the day if you have to ask yourself if something’s real, then you probably already have the answer.”
This is the script to the Diamond Producers Association (DPA) video, shown at the Rapaport breakfast at JCK. I was happy to be in attendance and can tell you, if you weren’t able to attend, that the audience overall appeared to be receptive to the message. There were a lot of nods and a good amount of clapping hands.
I, for one, remain cynical. It’s not that I disliked the video. It was nicely shot and the voiceover was very engaging. My issue is not with the campaign. It’s with a much larger issue I’ve noticed. Everything that is written about GenY mentions they are craving connections with people, they want experiences – not things, etc. But the problem is that the opportunity to create the connection is right in front of them, and they can’t drop their smartphones to seize it. They’re paralyzed at the thought of missing out on a Tweet or post by a friend. They agonize as to why their post didn’t get as many likes as their friend’s. They want real connections, but they’re transfixed by celebrity lifestyles and the thought of being a millionaire business owner or YouTube star at the age of 22. They read these stories and wonder why they can’t have this opportunity too. They’re literally unable to disconnect. My 17 year-old can spend an entire night on Snapchat and Netflix without having a single real human interaction, and she’ll be just fine with that – even if I most certainly am not. I don’t think they can be taught to wake up and see that “living” or “having an experience” is as easy as dropping their phone and actually doing something – sadly, they’ll have to figure it out on their own. And shame on us for not stepping in. Instead, we’re following suit. We don’t want to be left behind, we don’t want to be irrelevant. We want to be able to relate to others. It’s understandable. We want to keep up with technology and trends in our ever evolving, yet futile, attempts to stay young.
I noticed something at a local metro park after work yesterday. Two young 20-somethings sitting across from each other at a table with nothing to say to each other, but both texting away on their phones. I witnessed it a few weeks ago when I called a local Panera to place an order pickup. “You know, you can order online and you won’t have to talk to anyone,” the young male on the other end of the phone said. I couldn’t believe it. I said, “Well, sorry to inconvenience you but I did want to talk to someone. I actually like people.” Talk about a bad experience, handed to me by someone of the age who supposedly craves experiences.
Then yesterday I cringed as I listened to a segment on NPR Now’s “Fresh Air” on my way to work, where the host interviewed a 20-something expert on shopping. She said retail chains like The Gap are closing their doors because they haven’t learned to create an in-store experience that is relatable to GenY. “It has to be entertaining,” she said. All I could think to myself was, “Really? I have to be entertained while I’m picking out a t-shirt dress at The Gap? This is what it’s come to?” And yet, maybe she’s onto something. Check out this Fast Company article that outlines the company’s business model one which flies in the face of convention.
Let’s face it. We’re busy. Really busy. And shopping today is way different than it was in the 80s, 90s, and even last year. Online to many is a convenience where, with a few clicks, they can be done buying without leaving the house, without standing in a line, and yes, Mr. Panera, without talking to anyone. It’s not going to be for everyone but in an ever-connected world where people can’t go on vacation without checking their email, free time is the most prized possession out there today. It will be interesting to see how retail adapts to this ever-evolving landscape.
As for Gen Y and their Smartphones? What can I say? We’re still learning as a society, and we have to put processes in place to know personally, as individuals, when we need to unplug and find a way to let others know to be more present in our lives. I’m ready for real-life experiences to be back in vogue.
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