Ode to the Smartphone… Sort of

The fourth post in our summer-intern blog series was authored by Samantha Hauser from Arizona State University. Posts by Forrest Hanson, Meaghan Davison and Kristen Marchus can be found here, here and here, respectively. Have at it, Samantha!

– Bri and Dave

My Blackberry and I have been together for about six months, and already I can’t imagine life without it. We do everything together: eat, sleep, work, watch TV, hang out with friends, you name it. When I’m lost, my smartphone is my compass. When I’m hungry, my phone finds the nearest restaurants and kindly sorts them by price, cuisine or customer ratings. My phone even helps me manage my workout routines and keep track of my calorie intake. But most of all, my smartphone has my back with social media. Nobody touches my Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, Skype or Gmail accounts without my phone finding out about it… And I mean nobody.

My phone works hard around the clock to keep me up-to-date with what’s going on in my little cyber universe, blinking, beeping and buzzing every time it sees some action. But lately I’ve been finding that I’m just as much a slave to my phone as it is to me. Each blink, beep and buzz is like a little teaser, begging for my attention. And the more it blinks, the more curious I become. Did my professor finally post the midterm grades? Did my boyfriend just text me? Maybe it was just my roommate responding to my wall post. It doesn’t take long for the uncertainty to overwhelm me, and I have to give in and pick up my phone.

Recently, I’ve had to consciously keep myself from rushing to check every notification my phone gives me. It’s not always appropriate to be staring at your phone, and I have to remind myself during these types of situations that I can check my phone as soon as a more appropriate opportunity presents itself. Otherwise, I end up responding to e-mails at the dinner table and checking Facebook in the shower.

But it’s not just my own internal pressure to stay connected that leads me into a state of mental anguish every time my phone’s little red light starts blinking. There’s an increasing pressure from the outside world to be connected and available 24/7. If I don’t answer a text message right away, I get another in five minutes that just says, “???” If I don’t respond to an e-mail within a few hours, I get a text asking, “Hey did you get my e-mail?”

Now I don’t claim to be an expert on corporate culture, but I know these concepts translate into the professional world as well. And with all of this pressure to stay connected coming from both work and home (often through the same laptops, phones and networks), I wonder if it will ever become too much.

The bottom line is that while being connected 24/7 is fun, it’s also exhausting. With every futuristic new tool my smartphone offers me, my life gets a little more complicated. At the moment, this constant flow of information into the palm of my hand is new and fun and exciting, but I sometimes wonder if — and when — the novelty will wear off.

What do you think? Will there ever come a day when we all throw in the towel and jump back on the Paleolithic bandwagon? Or will we always be slaves to the newest technological wonders that developers throw our way?

Related articles:

Ryan Seacrest is addicted to his Blackberry, too! Here he talks about it with Larry King:

– Samantha

The Sunday Newspaper

The third post in our summer-intern blog series was authored by Kristen Marchus from Gonzaga University. Posts by Forrest Hanson and Meaghan Davison can be found here and here, respectively. You’re up, Kristen!

– Bri and Dave

I am convinced my love of the newspaper and current events began at a young age.  When I was growing up, one of my favorite parts of the weekend was reading the Sunday newspaper.  At first, I would skim the actual newspaper and then move on to my favorite part, the Sunday advertisements.  I loved looking at all of them, especially Target, Mervyn’s, Best Buy and the coupon specials.  Eventually as I grew older, I spent more time reading about current events and less time on the weekly ads, advice columns and horoscopes.

I have always loved the newspaper, but I became a certified “news junkie” during college.  I am a recent graduate of Gonzaga University, a private Jesuit university located in Spokane, Washington.  It has a small, beautiful campus and a very well known basketball team, but none of these things were my favorite part of my college campus.  My favorite part of Gonzaga was the free New York Times and Spokesman-Review newspapers for students.

Throughout college, I would read the free New York Times newspaper daily.  I would go into my classrooms early to sit and read.  When other students arrived for class, some would ask me, “Do you have to read the newspaper for a class?”  I don’t think I ever met another student who took full advantage of the free newspapers or who understood my personal interest in reading the news.  Sadly, almost every day stacks of outdated newspapers were recycled.

I believe my love for current events and the news was one of the many reasons I switched from studying business to a public relations major late in my sophomore year.  The more upper-division public relations classes I took, the more certain I became public relations was the field I wanted to pursue.  And after completing multiple internships, it has become obvious that a huge part of a public relations practitioner’s job involves reading and scanning the news for client, competitor and industry news.

Over the last couple of years, my news habits have migrated from the daily newspaper to the Internet and my iPhone.  I am a big fan of the free New York Times app, but also follow local news through the San Francisco Chronicle and Contra Costa Times websites.  But since graduating and moving back to the Bay Area, I have felt a void, as I no longer have access to the free newspapers.  On Sunday mornings, I do not like eating breakfast in front of my computer and checking out the weekly Target sales via the Internet.  I really miss having a physical newspaper in front of me.

That is why contrary to all the reports of newspaper circulation and sales dropping, I just ordered home delivery of The San Francisco Chronicle.  Newspaper and magazine circulation has been in decline for many years, while the popularity of the Internet and especially the iPhone and iPad apps have increased tremendously.  I am very interested to see how magazines and newspapers use these mobile devices to help restore circulation.  I am also certain that my now free NYT app, will not be free much longer.

Call me old fashioned, but I can’t imagine getting all my news via the Internet, Twitter and Facebook.  Don’t get me wrong, I also consider myself a fanatic of social media. While I am positive social media and smart phones are changing the way we connect with people, shop and learn about emergency situations, I also know that I will always love reading the actual newspaper.  This means tolerating the black ink on my fingers, going outside to get my own newspaper and dealing with wet newspapers in the winter, but for me it is totally worth it.

– Kristen

Social Networking or Networking Socially?

The second post in our summer-intern blog series was authored by Meaghan Davison from Gonzaga University. The first post, written by Forrest Hanson, can be found here. Take it away, Meaghan!

– Bri and Dave

We all see them. Perhaps we are among the guilty ones. We see them at restaurants: Families at dinner; each member plugged into his or her iPad, iPhone or iPod. We see them at work: Colleagues texting and checking statuses on social networking sites while simultaneously attempting to engage in a conversation with a co-worker. While it is important to embrace new avenues of communication, I can’t help but wonder — What ever happened to face-to-face communication?

This past weekend, Americans across the country celebrated our independence and freedom. Families and communities gathered at barbecues, baseball games, parades and fireworks to commemorate our founders and the American Revolution with American traditions. However, amid the festivities, I realized many people failed to put aside the technology to enjoy the family and friends around them. Is this the new American society? Do we prefer virtual (and often anonymous) communication to real personal contact? Does technology intended to facilitate connections disrupt actual human relationships?

Coincidentally, a few days earlier on June 30, the world celebrated another revolution with Social Media Day. Mashable CEO Pete Cashmore proclaimed Social Media Day as “a day to celebrate the changes in media that have empowered us to stay connected to information in real time, the tools that have enabled us to communicate from miles apart…” (see embedded video below). While a day dedicated to the appreciation of social media seems harmless, it also seems pointless. Americans celebrate Independence Day to focus upon the freedoms we often take for granted. By contrast, a social media commemoration seems unnecessary when technology is so omnipresent in our daily lives that we sleep with Blackberries and check Facebook and Twitter every half hour.

Indeed, in response to Mr. Cashmore’s holiday, Jay Dolan, a self-proclaimed Anti-Social Media blogger, urged a counter celebration of June 30 as Anti-Social Media Day. Dolan understands and appreciates the importance of social media, but mocks society’s dot-com addiction. Perhaps Anti-Social Media Day is an excessive and harsh response to Cashmore’s focus on the benefits of the technological revolution. Yet, Dolan offers some easy suggestions, which can be adapted in the office to facilitate personal connections and build a team mentality.

  • Call someone on the phone: Instant messaging a co-worker is certainly easy, but can lead to miscommunication and confusion. The lols, nps and smiley faces all possess ambiguous meanings. Pick up the phone, dial the extension and listen to the person’s voice to obtain nuance and emotion. If uncertainty exists, or you receive a voice mail…
  • Walk over to your co-worker’s desk: Have a face-to-face conversation. Conversation offers a nice change of pace, and you might gain a clearer understanding of what task must be accomplished, what needs to be changed, and how to tackle a problem. A person’s expression can convey confusion or doubt lost in e-mail. Additionally, a short walk and change of environment might stir your own creativity.
  • Leave a note: If a colleague is not at his or her desk, leave a message. A handwritten, delivered note suggests a sense of urgency and reflects a special respect for your colleagues’ opinions and expertise. A note demonstrates comfort with your relationships as well as a commitment to diligence about producing quality work in a timely fashion.

Undoubtedly, modern technology offers incredible and unparalleled opportunities to rapidly acquire and disseminate information, expand knowledge, and establish global contacts. So, too, technology, social networking and integrated communications are essential to successful public-relations campaigns. Twitter, Facebook, texting and e-mails are all integral and necessary components of our efforts to stay connected and current.

Yet, in a field in which effective networking and communication is necessary, a dedicated professional also must maintain healthy relationships with clients and co-workers. Face-to-face conversations offer invaluable opportunities to glean emotional reactions to our ideas as well as to build trust and collegiality essential to success on future projects. Teamwork will be enhanced only to the extent social networking does not displace networking socially. At the foundational level, public relations must begin with networking socially, that is respecting clients and co-workers, while employing social networking to service these relationships. Technology should be a tool to enhance our lives, not a new reality to replace humanity. An emphasis on networking socially maintains a focus on the importance of teamwork, customer service and strong personal relationships. Such an approach ensures social networking serves our values and goals.

– Meaghan

Corny, Verging on Desperate

It’s intern season here at Burson-Marsteller. In sunny San Francisco, we’ve welcomed with open arms four bright, young stars. And if you’re assuming they’re social media pros, why, you’re correct! They’re Facebook fanatics, YouTube-using yahoos, Twittering tweeps and much, much more. We have a lot to learn from these Jedi warriors who hail from lands and universities far away (e.g. Arizona State University, Gonzaga University and University of California Berkeley).

As part of their program, we’ve asked the interns to pen blog entries for some summer-reading pleasure. So, we’d like to give a hearty hello to our first contributor: Forrest Hanson. Forrest joins us from University of California Berkeley, is very interested in politics and can dance like it’s nobody’s business. Take it away, Forrest!

– Bri and Dave

I have an irrational love of YouTube.

I think it’s personally reasonable to be honest. I mean, who in their right mind wouldn’t want to watch Charlie? Or Charlie? Or an incredibly awkward man singing pitch-perfect Whitney Houston? Or an endless loop of Powerthirst? But I’ve been told that the first step is admitting there’s a problem, so here we are.

I really shouldn’t be surprised that YouTube has such a strong hold on me, it plays directly to my many weaknesses. My suave, polished exterior (humor me here) belies a rich, nougat-y interior of pure nerdyness that threatens to overwhelm me at almost any moment. Although I have dabbled in all manner of good and nerdy pursuits, my personal experience tends to concentrate in a few areas. First, I am a huge music nerd. I play a number of instruments and was a counselor at band camp for three years (insert joke here). My training is mostly classical, but I’m an equal opportunity kind of guy. An Itzhak Perlman master class? Right in my wheelhouse. Pachelbel’s Canon on the electric guitar? Sure. A guy complaining about Pachelbel’s Canon? Even better. The most ballin’ accordion player ever? In Soviet Russia, accordion plays you! Endless quantities of American Idol? Yo, dawg, that was da bomb! The “Hanukkah Song”? Please, sir, may I have another?

I hope you get the picture by now. Things are bad. Really, really bad. It’s entirely possible that I’m completely beyond help. At any moment the men in white coats might come to take me to a happy place.

But, as my YouTube favorites would be quick to point out, my music nerdyness quails in comparison to my current hobby of choice: dancing.

But before that, a brief interlude to watch people fall over:

Wasn’t that fun? Schadenfreude’s the best.

I’ve been dancing seriously since 2006 at a studio in downtown San Rafael. My primary training is in the ten ballroom dances, although I’ve found the time to mix in some West Coast Swing, Ballet and Blues amongst others. My training is competitive in nature, I have a partner and go to competitions where we compete against other couples in the five Standard dances: Waltz, Tango, Vienese Waltz, Foxtrot and Quickstep.

(Ballroom competitions are broken into many different divisions to place competitors of similar ages and skills against one another. I dance in the Adult Amateur Standard Championship division, which is open to all amateur competitors and allows any level of choreography. Amateurs are distinguished from professionals, who dance in a different division.)

The rise of YouTube and recent focus of the media on dancing has, in my opinion, completely changed the way it’s perceived by people who don’t dance. Rather than the vacant look and vague “Oh, that’s nice,” I used to get when I told people I did ballroom, I now get at least a “That’s the stuff on Dancing with the Stars, right?” frequently a “That’s interesting,” sometimes a “I have a friend that dances,” and every once in a while a “You’re so awesome, can I be your friend?”

Okay, I admit that the last one hasn’t happened yet.  Maybe someday…

Anyway, if someone does have the audacity to doubt how cool I am I can just jump on YouTube and whip out a video of someone doing something insane. I’m annoyed by much of Dancing with the Stars (So You Think You Can Dance, on the other hand, is amazingness in television form) but appreciate the way it has pushed dancing towards the mainstream. It can be occasionally frustrating when someone thinks that Jerry Rice is the pinnacle of ballroom dance (particularly when compared to champions like these guys or these guys), but I’m normally willing to smile and nod.

The ability to watch amazing things whenever I want has certainly had an adverse effect on my sleep cycle, although it has undoubtedly made me a happier person in general. Ultimately, I fear I am powerless against YouTube’s siren call.

– Forrest

I’m Mark Zuckerberg and you’re not

Is Facebook the biggest modern business phenomena?  Look at the social network’s growth:

  • 2006 – 9 million users
  • 2007- 40 million users
  • 2010 – 400 million users

And that 2010 number is the last one announced.  David Kirkpatrick, author of ‘The Facebook Effect’ says it’s probably 500 million by now, and he’s predicting 1 billion users by the end of 2011.

Can’t you hear Dr. Evil? One Billion Users…..

There’s been a lot of coverage lately on the most recent outcry over privacy, with charges that Facebook has evil control over your personal data.  But the cold hard fact is that with those numbers, it’s really a tiny percentage of Facebook users that are at all concerned.  Inside Facebook, they look back at the huge brouhaha when the Newsfeed came out, and it’s now the most popular feature.

Speaking at a recent Churchill Club breakfast in Silicon Valley, Kirkpatrick spent a fair amount of time talking about (and often defending) Facebook’s continuing strategy of building a platform based on genuine identity, and all the marketable information that comes with that mission.  Kirkpatrick was interviewed by Kara Swisher of AllThingsD, who had Zuckerberg hiding behind his hoodie at the recent D conference.

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Zuckerberg: We’re going to serve 1 billion like buttons on the Web

At Facebook’s F8 conference, Mark Zuckerberg announced ways he wants to make the Web more like heaven. One of these ways is getting Facebook “like” buttons all over the Web. I “like” it. I also request some “unlike” buttons, just because sometimes I don’t.

Zuckerberg on stage, from VentureBeat

Printing from the Cloud – Google says “Yes We Can”

"Our goal is to build a printing experience that enables any app (web, desktop, or mobile) on any device to print to any printer anywhere in the world."

Google announced that it’s close to devising a plan to print from the cloud. The reason Google wants to do this? Because the company is building tools to make all your devices “stateless,” that is, with all the information hosted on their servers and sent to your device as needed. One of the hurdles to this dream, “in the cloud” existence has been printer drivers. If you aren’t installing anything on your physical device, how does your device communicate with the printer? Google wants to take on the role of translator. When you want to print something, it will get sent straight from the cloud to the printer. Nothing to install, just walk to the printer and grab your double-sided, single-spaced, recycled-paper document ;).

I like where this is going — I’ve reached a point where I keep most of my personal documents online and am always jumping from computer to computer…work, home, boyfriend’s computers. In this scenario, I could hit “print” from any of these places and my world would keep on turning.

–Sharon Howell