HELLO? (with no apologies to Adele)

The telephone is dead.

Not so much the cell/smartphone, since our fingers twitch to text and tweet and reply-all email.

But the Alexander Graham Bell invention is moribund (especially according to statistics from Nielsen, claiming that we’re moving to a landline-less and voicemail-less society).

All of which we mourn.  To us, it signals an increasingly isolated population, at home and at work.  [Though for the life of us, we can’t figure out who’s talking to whom in our commutes.] 

It shows our determined individualism:  “Hey, we’re communicating on our own terms and in our own timeframe.”

And it points to an ever-decreasing competency in being willing to talk and understanding how to hold a conversation.

According to Miss Manners, phone calls are rude, disruptive, and awkward.  They interrupt our workflow, our home lives, and generally create havoc for those around us.  In fact, it’s become de rigueur to ask, in an email, if it’s okay to call.

Much of that could be due to the constant ‘dialing for dollars’ from robocalls or from groups we’d just as soon not hear from.  And much of that could be a lack of energy to speak with those who want to talk with us; after all, it takes a lot of energy to text and message and scroll through Facebook and LinkedIn and Instagram and Pinterest and other social media.

Some say back-and-forth messaging is simply the new century’s conversation. 

We’d hang up on that.


Last week, we lunched with a rather senior colleague who’s on job search.

“I need a business card,” s/he explained.  And went on to talk about its qualities, like design-worthiness  and purpose and so on.

Which (natch) got us to thinking.   Is our biz card defunct, out of date, even lame as the digital geeks assert?

Truth:  We’ve got issues with bumping smartphones to exchange contact information, not just because technological compatibility ain’t there yet.  But also because there’s something about a heavy-duty stock, a great brand look and feel, colorfulness, and a permanence that seduces us. 

Sure, we’d be lost without our portable e-database, housed oh-so-conveniently in our phones.  It’s handy during a conversation, or meeting, when we absolutely positively need immediate access.  On the other hand, we (like the few thousand International Business Card Collectors – and yes, there is such a group) tend to hang on to the best specimens, those that are memorable for whatever reason.

Best also implies yet another quality:  Innovation.  We’ve seen and heard of USBs attached to a card, one composed from an iPhone screen, yet another functioning as a keyboard.  The marketing ideas for our commonplace rectangle are almost endless.

There’s yet another reason for not burying the business card:  The networking possibilities.  Japan has us cornered on the romance of the meishi (occasionally carrying its own QR code), having created a rather personal ritual around the hand-off of cards.  In fact, relationships a few hundred years ago flourished, thanks, simply, to the use of calling or visiting cards.

You, dear reader, know the business case for business cards – from exchange obligations (“Hey, I handed you one – I need one in return”) and etiquette to quick responses and quality messaging.  Would you ever give them up?  RSVP about the business card’s potential R.I.P. to cbyd.co.


The oh-so-trendy digital detox was forced on us last week.

Yes, involuntarily.

Our cell phones had no bars and signals.  Cyber-connections were either the speed of the 1980s or non-existent (and pricey, when they were available).  And the normal U.S.A. media, from TVs to radios, were all dominated by news and features we had no interest in.

Sure, we were warned that our vacation spot had those limitations.  But knowing doesn’t always equate to being prepared for the tsunami emotions of “OMG, I can’t log in or find out what’s going on!”

Instead, we engaged in conversations.  Lots of them.  And found that our fellow travelers and had some very intriguing lives and philosophies.  As did the country natives.  We also discovered the pleasure of reading with all senses, listening with full intent, and looking, really observing the activities and people around us.

All of those benefits were further underscored when we skimmed over the recent Real Simple-Huffington Post survey of 3,500 wired women.  No surprise:  Seventy-six percent checked smartphones hourly.  Three in four texted while driving.  Checking Facebook was de rigueur multiple times every 60 minutes.  Participants admitted to experiencing some ups and downs to this always-on world, from convenience and networking to distractions and impersonal-ness. 

So what’s a communicator, marketer, designer, and others to do?  Two obvious moves which many in corporate America have embraced:  Either designate one tech-free day a week (or more, if the culture will allow it) and/or sign off on the weekends. 

Less apparent are those strategies that change behaviors, such as training leaders and workers in the art of meaningful conversations.   Or establishing common sense guidelines, with the full understanding of social media’s impact and seductiveness.

Otherwise, we could each pay up to $1,500 for a three-day adult rehab camp.  Lanyards, anyone?


If the Oxford English Dictionary is already tracking a word (in its online version), then we call it a fact of life.

In August, the word “selfie” debuted in the OED, though Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia probably counts as the first perpetrator (in the early 1900s) of the “self-portrait photo, taken with a hand-held camera or smartphone.” 

It’s so popular today that Time magazine named it one of its top ten buzzwords last year.  And numbers don’t lie:  23 million photos have been uploaded on Instagram with the hashtag #selfie (versus 51 million with the hashtag #me). 

Wait:  Further proof that the millennium’s second decade is “all about me” lies in the growing numbers of self-tracking smartphone apps.  Once apps are active, users can count sleep gained, food digested, fitness goals achieved.  These seven thousand-plus devices are wearable, tote-able, and generally affixed to almost any part of the body, quantifying and qualifying how an individual’s day is going.   [Like a smartphone, but oh-so-much-more personal.]

In a related bit of I/me research:  University of Texas research academicians probed the use of the word “I” versus “we.”  Surprisingly enough, professors found that those saying “I” more frequently were less powerful and less sure of themselves.  Those adopting the “we” language were higher status, preferring to look outside on the world, not inside. 

To us, selfies, self-tracking, even the “I” word could be seen as the ultimate symbols of self-absorption – among all generations, not just Millennials or Boomers.  For sure, today’s economy alone would prompt that “let’s take care of me first” feeling.  As would the boom of social “me” media, from Twitter and Facebook to Snapchat and Vine.  It’s something that we as communicators and marketers need to be more conscious of and more deliberate about … regardless of the reasons for self-focus.  After all, an inward perspective – am I genuine, am I honest? – is always a subject worth probing, with ourselves and with others.