Monday, January 2, 2012

Have You Reached A Tech Plateau?

I find more and more people are hitting a Tech Plateau.

I define this observation as when tech users find a level where someone is in a state from comfortable to saturated with the available technology options and having found a plateau there.

I know tech smart and savvy people who will argue that the best is yet to come, and that many new available options are so exciting and going to create so much ... blah, blah, blah. Its a case of those who like something and can not see that there are those who have issues with it or struggle with it.

Tech plateauing is a passive-aggressive rebellion to not wanting to learn any more technology.  Last week, I heard the anger of one radio morning show host with Facebook. He says he will use only Twitter anymore, verses all the other social media accounts he has. Another business owner and entrepreneur says that he sees little if any return on investment for all the drip, drip, drip of building his brand and informing people about him and his expertise, and is going back to more traditional methods like postcards. I read the work a well respected journalist who screams that so much of the content people write is all fire, ready, aim!  His concern is that everyone wants to play journalist, without the checks and balances. And, like many shiny objects ... the allure of the New Communications Frontier is starting to wane.

There is basis for all this. Over the last fourteen years,  we have had some need around adapting to technology  literally crammed down our throats. We have been told back in 1998 that Y2K was going to do is in -- people made the changes needed and it didn't. And from there, it has been a stream of tech warnings, challenges and advisories ...  that some virus is going eat their photos and some bad man is going to steal our identity, that our website needs greater SEO and our computers need the latest OS, that we are all yesterday's news if we didn't tweet and post and meme and show that we like things, and all groan at some marginally funny video on some web page that wouldn't make the cut on America's Funniest Videos.

Now, these people on the tech plateau have reached a point where they only want to use functional and relevant technology for their real lives.  They don't object to using a spreadsheet to add a column of numbers or order through their kid's video game console the latest on line streamed movie, verses standing in line at the vestibule of the supermarket to get it from a machine. The like having options on their phone, but their are more options there then they would use. They may  prefer to tweet over post, but not do both not have an app that makes them the mayor of some restaurant where the main purpose was to enjoy a good meal and not claim some sort of dominion.

This endless stream of technology based solutions has left many of these people feeling some what empty. You think I'm wrong ... how many people are you connected to on a given social media site who were not active in the last 14 days? I listen to teens and twenty somethings, often the initial adopters, who are actually burned out on all this. I talk to peers who just would rather spend their time doing something else. I tell you that many of them have reached their tech plateau.

All this high tech has lead for a need for real touch. This means they need to have contact with people face to face ... not through video cam's, avatars and qwerty keyboards. They want to feel a handshake and a hug, not a smiley face at the end of a post. They want real warm relationships with people, not just lists of so called friends who they couldn't pick out of a picnic at the park. This has become a reverse revenge on the nerds, where the people who thought they were so smart now look kind of shallow to some. They want to have a conversation with someone they know and can count on, not someone who knows of 127 other people that they also know.

Those who are tech advocates and those haven't plateaued in their interest will say that this is nonsense. They frankly have not reached their tech plateau. Some of them will some day and some of them won't.  Look at smart phone take rates. Look at users on each social media site - only the nation of China has more people than Facebook. Yet, just because people use, buy and sign up doesn't mean they are fulfilled by the experience. Often, it is that the newspaper is only home delivered three days a week and no longer every day why they log on ... not because they want to log on.

It isn't the end of bigger, higher and faster onset of technology and applications by a long shot. I don't expect to see scores of Christmas iPads and Kindle readers left on the curb by Easter. I doubt that people will want rotary dials on their Android phones. I doubt that IBM selectric typewriters will be replacing HP laptops anytime soon. High tech is here to stay, like it or not.  I just feel the fervor that many felt at one point will start to wane. Also like any plateau, there is a need for a killer app where people will engage.

People will still go to the electronics super store, cell phone kiosk, computer warehouse and all the other shopping websites in an attempt to at least know what the Jones are buying, rather then try to keep up with them.

Some tech plateauers will hearken back to a less tech specific age which seems more certain and prosperous, less dangerous and far less invasive. Maybe it will be this rush of nostalgia when people didn't have to check in from everywhere to ask us what we thought about, "Crunchy or Smooth?"

"Technology may be a wonderful servant, but can be a cruel master."
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