Mobile devices are everywhere. There is a good chance you are reading this on some kind of mobile, such as a tablet or smartphone. Most email these days is read on a smartphone, rather than on a desktop computer. And over a year ago, Google insisted that your website had to be mobile-friendly if it was going to get ranked in search results.
Mobile is king.
Or is it?
New research suggests that we are becoming so overloaded with mobile messages that we are shunning our smartphones.
The study found that the more messages people received, the more they were likely to give up using their mobile devices. Some people resorted to having a dual-sim device so that they could separate work from personal. Others changed their phone number, to avoid messaging from services that had their previous one. Some people even said they would give up their phones entirely.
Mobile technology clearly has its benefits, but the more we use them, the more we face “overload”. When you become overwhelmed with information and decisions to make about such information your brain says “forget this, you have better things to do”. Essentially, it is trying to save you the effort of having to deal with all the messages. That is part of a basic survival instinct that is embedded deep within your brain, attempting to ensure you do things with the least amount of effort so that you preserve energy for use in a crisis or threat to you.
The more that our mobiles become cluttered with messages and information, the more your basic survival instincts kick in, moving you away from using your smartphone.
For businesses this is crucial. The study found that people were more likely to give up their smartphones as a result of excess personal messaging than from an increase in commercial messaging. In other words, there is little the business world can do to protect itself from mobile overload because the main factor involved is the extent of personal messaging between friends. The fact that companies may be involved in lower levels of messaging means they end up being “collateral damage” in the fight against overload.
From a psychological perspective, our usage of smartphones is brand new. We may have had them for almost a decade, but our brains are not really used to them. When you compare the amount of time the human brain has had to learn to cope with writing, for instance, the smartphone is spanking brand new. Our brains are still trying to work out what to do.
When our brains don’t know what to do, they resort to basics. Give up; move on.
This new study is showing that happening. People have not yet developed the coping mechanisms to deal with mass mobile messaging, so the only way to handle things is to give up the mobile device. With increasing reliance on the mobile and more people sending more messages it is inevitable that more people will also give up using them. We could be near to the “tipping point” in the usage of mobile devices.
For your business, this means one thing: you need to ensure that your business can cope when fewer of your customers and staff are using mobile devices. What plans do you have up your sleeve to cover the inevitable situation where many of the people you are trying to contact will be limiting their mobile usage?
Don’t give up on the desktop; there is plenty of life in it yet.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+