Social Expectations and Technology

Imagine you're a professional and you tell someone you don't have a cell phone.

In most cases, people will be surprised (a few will be envious).  Cell phones are almost expected right now.  They're normal.  They're even more normal for anyone tha drives in front of me on the freeway apparently.

As noted last week, smartphones were starting to become a social norm.  Texting is rampant (even without Twitter).  If I don't respond to text messages in an our or two people actually get worried.

Our technical usage has changed social expectations.  What it means to be mature, connected, and even polite has been altered by the technologies we have.

First of course, you have to be aware of these things in order to respond properly in social situations.  You need to know what people expect so you can communicate with them properly (even if its saying you don't use a particular piece of technology).

However, this is also important to – you guessed it – geeky careers.

Social changes can produce shifts in how technology is used, what is expected, and how much it sells.  In short, if you're in a remotely technical profession, you're going to need to be aware of how technology changes social expectations – and vice versa.

  • If you work in an industry of the "socially expected" (such as smartphones) then you've got a good thing going – but you also will have people wanting to horn in, and you need to know how to make sure your product, department, programs, etc. keep the money flowing.
  • If you work in an industry where things are changing (such as gaming) you need to stay aware – gaming has gone over the years from being looked down on to being hip and highly profitable, with a quickly mutating demographic.  Gaming seems to be something that's going from acceptable to normal to possibly required (indeed, I find people ask questions about WoW and MMOs as social ice-breakers).  Social expectations may change quickly.
  • Is your career in an area on the way out, or that is going through changes that may involve it splitting or breaking up with social expectations?  Transport is an area rapidly changing, and having that Hummer isn't a status symbol – while working in green tech can make you a hero.

Keep in mind what's changing as socially expected, socially accepted, and what's changing in your career area.  That's going to be a driver – and that's going to affect you.

As a personal example, being in gaming has made me aware of how quickly it's changing – and how gaming is becoming an ice-breaker and social connection tool.  I can easily foresee a time where NOT having a chosen computer game or site seems a bit odd, like not having a favorite sports team (even if its just your old college one).

– Steven Savage