The Evolution of Communication

Communication has evolved quite a bit over the last few decades. We have seen the preferred channels migrate from phone calls, to texts, and now pictures/video. What has caused these channel shifts? I believe it stems from technological breakthroughs that has made it easier to convey thoughts while investing less time.

During the 1990–2000 era, mobile phones were the latest rage. People could relinquish the physical shackles of their landline phones. They now carried their own personal telephone number in their briefcases and could be easily accessible at any time. Technology advanced, Moore’s law did its thing, and before we knew it, we could fit all of this functionality in a small pocket. Nevertheless, phone calls still made up the majority of the functional use of these devices.

After the dawn of the millennium, text messaging made its appearance. This new channel allowed for more succinct, frictionless, and prepared exchanges. The messages were briefer than a phone call, required less effort to send, and its content could be carefully curated before sending. Traditionalists may have considered this new form of communication juvenile, since much of the context and background information resulting from the tone of voice would be lost. Slowly but surely, this form of communication began to pick up amongst the younger generation of the time and overtook phone calls as the de facto communication standard in mobile phones.

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As we waved goodbye to 2010, new advancements in technology emerged once more, and it became standard to have a decent camera on every phone. This, in turn, made it easier for users to take photos in a snap. New image-centered apps emerged such as Instagram and Snapchat. Messages became more visual based. Text messages were beginning to be filled with emojis and photos/videos were beginning to replace words. The traditionalists criticized these new changes by stating that images were too ambiguous and that the meaning of the messages were being lost. The industry adjusted to this paradigm shift as well; mobile phone companies focused their phone plans around data instead of time, gigs instead of minutes.

What will the next wave be? Companies are placing these bets all over the place. Facebook is investing heavily in Live Video, AI Bots, and Virtual Reality. While I am leaning more towards the VR and AI camps, I know one thing for certain: the next big thing will once again make it easier to convey thoughts while investing less time.