I’d like to say that I’m not one of those people who obsess over Instagram ‘likes’ and comments or someone who doesn’t automatically pick up their phone whenever it beeps. But I am. In fact, I get far more excitement from seeing the ‘like’ notifications appear than I’d like to admit.
As a Millennial, social media and technology, in general, is in my blood (okay, maybe that’s a little intense, but you get the gist). I, along with my classmates, grew up in a fast-paced, digital world. The implications of this upbringing, though full of benefits, are also fraught with negativities – the overuse and dependence on social media being one.
For many years now, scientists have studied the psychological effects of social media and continue to find evidence that supports the connection between online presence and certain physiological responses. Without getting too scientific, we experience the same kind chemical rush of happiness after a good run as we do every time we post, share, or ‘like’ something online.
This chemical is actually called dopamine and it is commonly referred to as the “reward molecule” due to its effects. A study by RadiumOne goes further to postulate that in maintaining an online presence we “feel a sense of belonging and advance our concept of self.” Findings like those of the RadiumOne study are powerful because they indicate not only why humans feel so drawn to social media but also the control businesses can have when using these types of platforms as a marketing tool.
Whatever role social media plays in your life, it’s hard to downplay the impact it continues to have in shaping new ways of doing business. Today, companies across all industries are seeing the effects of the digital era — from agriculture to healthcare, no firm can escape its reach. Those who will be successful over the course of this transformation will undoubtedly be the companies who recognize the need for change and have the tools in place to implement it (without ostracizing certain employees or customers).
Companies like Netflix and Spotify, that are leveraging their massive amounts of data to more accurately recommend products to their users, are examples that come to mind easily. In other areas of business, however, the shift isn’t as clear. For this reason, I am particularly excited to hear from a member of John Hancock’s digital strategy team later on in the semester.
The benefits of the digital era in business are clear: more data, improved communications, greater efficiency, and increased customer satisfaction. As with almost everything, though, digital business and emerging technologies come with downsides. Aside from its addictive qualities, technology has affected how we communicate and has led to the development of some seriously questionable people skills. On the business side, while technology has lead to major advancements, it leaves both a firm’s reputation and property more vulnerable. If a restaurant were to receive bad reviews on Yelp, for example, the damage would be much more widespread than if the information were relayed through traditional word of mouth communication.
Another concern of the digital era involves the growing reach of companies like Amazon and Google. As our homes become more filled with smart devices — smart TVs, smart thermostats, and even smart refrigerators – we become more dependent on technology and more willing to grant companies access to private personal information. Take the Amazon Echo with Alexa, an AI-driven personal assistant slash home speaker device. Since its release, Amazon has faced issues of privacy concerns surrounding users who worry that their devices are ‘always listening’. This issue of reach reminds me a lot of the book The Circle by Dave Eggers, which my class read for Commencement. Now a movie starring Tom Hanks and Emma Watson, The Circle chronicles the life of a young woman who goes to work for a large Internet company that stores financial, medical, and social data on all of its account holders. As Owen Gleiberman put it in his review for Variety magazine, the storyline is “a nightmare vision of what digital culture is turning all of us into, with all our help.” Yikes.
Dramatic as that comment may seem it’s hard to deny that our digital society is heading toward some uncharted territory.
Shifting gears a bit from class topics to the class itself, I’m excited for what will no doubt be a challenging but ultimately worthwhile semester, seeing as the topics of digital business, social media, and emerging technologies dominate most conversations these days.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I just heard my phone ping… brb.