“Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.”
On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell spoke these words and completed the first telephone call in history. For many, these words would become synonymous with a cultural revolution, making it easier than ever before to communicate with one another.
Fast forward about 130 years, for a child coming of age in the early to mid 2000s, this is one of the things that has become synonymous with my own type of cultural revolution:
My first real experience with social media was AOL Instant Messenger where I would talk to my friends every day after school, spending hours perfecting my buddy profile and crafting hilarious away messages (and yes, my real screen name was, and I guess still is, NewYrkDog). Soon I moved to MySpace where I met my new best friend Tom and once I reached high school and deemed myself “cool enough,” I moved to Facebook along with signing up for Twitter. Growing up with these social networks and methods of communication so ingrained in our society’s culture, it was difficult to grasp just how much of an impact these platforms had on my way of life. During the time I was jumping from one platform to the next, I never took the time to truly understand or appreciate the widespread capabilities of some of these platforms, even though most of it was staring me right in the face.
Over time, AOL Instant Messenger and MySpace became a distant memory while Facebook and Twitter continued to expand their networks. It was not until May 2, 2011 that I was first able to understand the significance of a platform like Twitter.
As I sat at my computer studying for my AP History exam the next day, I decided to take a study break and check Twitter. This may not have been the first time but due to the significance of the information, this was the first moment that I can remember where Twitter acted more as a source of up-to-the-minute news instead of just a place for my friends voice their thoughts about pop culture (Mac Miller was popular at the time so there were a lot of “Kool Aid and Frozen Pizza” lyrics on my feed).
From that moment forward, I began to develop a whole new perspective of the social media platform and since that day, there have been countless more examples of the benefits of promoting minute-by-minute news.
While the examples above are primarily focused around social media and their role as a communication tool, the term “digital business” implies a much broader scope. There have been an infinite amount of technologies that have arrived in the past decade alone that have drastically changed the way that people view the world. On June 29, 2007, the first version of the iPhone was released. While the first version may have been much more focused on “phone” capabilities, this technology has now advanced to the point where it has fundamentally disrupted every single industry and the way that firms within these industries operate. As we have already discussed in class, the iPhone played a role in the rise of Uber and other ride sharing services, iTunes on your phone drastically altered the music industry, most restaurants have now developed applications, or are involved with services such as Seamless or GrubHub, to make food delivery easier for their customers, just to name a few.
I am very thankful for the era in which I grew up. I am part of a generation that was able to experience and grow with technology but I was not born with an iPad in my hand. I still know what a floppy disk is and I even still listen to my father’s record player on occasion. Until you take a step back and really look at the way technology has impacted our lives, it is easy to miss because technology has become so ingrained in our culture. And this is what I find most interesting about social media and digital business. Technology has, does, and will continue to have a drastic impact on the way that people operate in society and the way businesses operate in their respective industries and yet, it is so easy for most people to take for granted, myself included. When the iPhone came out, it was a cultural and technological phenomenon but is now taken for granted just a decade later even though it continues to drastically affect our lives. Self-driving cars and artificial intelligence may seem foreign and exciting now but once these technologies have become widespread and have permeated society, how long will it take for these advances that seemed impossible a decade ago to become “ordinary” as well?
Technology is advancing faster now than ever before and it has become more and more difficult to keep up. For businesses, they not only have to keep up with technological change by leveraging current technologies but also have to keep an eye on the horizon to see what is coming next if they hope to stay competitive in the future. Just as an ordinary citizen alone, it can sometimes be overwhelming with how many social media platforms I am supposed to be checking from Twitter and Facebook to Snapchat and Instagram and everything in between. According to a Nielsen analysis, the typical U.S. smartphone user accesses 26.7 different apps per month, social media and otherwise.
With technology advancing so rapidly, it is funny to imagine a time when I couldn’t be using AOL while my mom was on the landline phone at the same time. For better or for worse, the future is coming so we all better strap in and enjoy the ride.