The Death of the Telephone

"Hello, this is Mr. Carson"
“Hello, this is Mr. Carson”

Last week, someone accused my work with social media marketing “irrelevant.” They claimed that organizations did not need an online marketing specialist, that it was a waste of resources. It reminded me something I saw on television.

During the first season of Downton Abbey, there was an amusing bit when the family decided to install a telephone. No one knew how to use one and several even questioned whether it was necessary at all.

It wasn’t long after its invention that nearly every home and business had a telephone. The telephone represented a connection with the community. Urgent messages could be delivered quickly, distant loved ones reached easily. Dinner could be ordered and delivered.

When I was younger, our household had a “family phone.” We only had one phone line (it was in the kitchen) and everyone had to share. By the time I was in high school, we had two lines (one shared between the computer, my siblings, and myself), call waiting, and phones in each bedroom as well.

Email experienced a similar transformation. Most households started with a singular email address that was shared by all members of the family. Remember getting those free AOL trial discs? Within just a few years, most people started getting their own email addresses. Some people have multiple (as of this writing, I have 17 that I use regularly).

Despite society’s move towards more privacy in our intimate forms of communication, we’ve become much more public through social media. We can now broadcast what we are thinking, share photos of what we are eating, show progress on what we’re reading or watching, and can send an update worldwide instantly.

These days, most people have a cell phone and discontinued service on their land lines.  We’ve become obsessed with having our own phone lines and emails, to enjoy privacy and control. Many families no longer have a “common area” where the family phone or PC is shared. Instead, that’s been replaced with mobile devices and wi-fi. Cell phones are hardly used as telephones anymore – in fact, services providers now make their money on data, not minutes. Talking has been replaced by texting, tweets, and status updates. Some crisis phone lines have been replaced by numbers where you can text for help. Through the social justice work of my band, we’ve been able to save the lives of several young people who were dealing with thoughts of suicide. Thank God for Facebook.

It’s more important than ever to understand the world which we live in. Email hurt the phone, social media is killing it. I can understand why some people might scoff at the newest forms of technology-I did the same when digital cameras first arrived. However, this is not a “tech” thing. This is communication.

The biggest waste of resources isn’t investing in the best ways to reach your audience. In fact, the biggest price is paid by those who lag behind, those who forget how to connect with the very people they’re trying to reach.

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