Lately, I have been trying to be more conscious of what device to use when -- when to use the phone, when to email, when to text or Facebook message or DM on Twitter -- and this has made me more aware of how others use their technologies with me.
I've been thinking about the effect that our choices have on the other end. The effectiveness of our communication depends on choosing the correct medium, right?
When is something not something to discuss over a device? When is it better to let someone know by text that you're thinking of him or her, instead of by phone? These questions have important implications at work. We now need to think about when a question is perhaps not straightforward enough for email. Or when is it the appropriate time to video conference? The same criteria we use to make those decisions could inform our creative duties, such as knowing when a headline more compelling on a billboard than a banner ad.
I recently read "Alone Together" by Sherry Turkle, which talks about how we continually strive with our machines to be never alone, but at the same time, always in control. See, if we are always with people, we are never alone, but if we are face-to-face with people we are not always in control -- that 's where our devices come in.
The question is : When does real intimacy outweigh our need to be in such control?
A friend of mine used to work for a guy who only ever texted. Once, she got herself so worked up, she showed me his latest barrage. The guy used only incomplete sentences. He barked. His texts were indeed annoying, like nips at her leg from a dog she'd like to punt into the next yard. Clearly, he didn't want to give any thought to how someone could get jazzed about something; he just wanted people to obey. His desire to be in control made him a bit of a jerk.
At some point, we need to sense the risk in seeing others as objects that can always be accessed, understand the risk in assuming we can always find usefulness and comfort and amusement when it's convenient.
Not too long ago, our agency was approached to pitch an account in which we would be briefed over the phone and then scheduled to present three weeks later. At first, it sounded like a piece of cake. Then, it sounded wrong. There would be no meet and greet, no chemistry check, no opportunity to see if agency and client were compatible. It was an invitation to a first date with a possible marriage proposal by dessert. So we passed.
And then something miraculous happened.
Three weeks later, the prospective client rang, conceded that the pitch process was being swayed by procurement, realized it would not give them what they really needed (a partner), and asked if we would participate with a chemistry meeting and some ice-breaking conference calls. Naturally, we pitched the account. And we won the pitch, largely, I believe, because we wanted to work for and spend time -- over email, text messages and in person -- with considerate people. We had reason to believe we'd have the necessary back and forth that leads to good work.
Whether with friends, fellow employees or consumers, we should think about what we want the desired effect to be, choose the right connection, and maintain a faith that people can surprise you. Because people do sometimes surprise you. Even clients.