Posted by: David Croslin | January 19, 2009

The Changing Face of Communications


If you were born after 1978, you are part of the Generation Y, also known as the Millennials. I, unfortunately, am a little older than you. But, I do have a handful of kids that fall in that range, and I love watching how they communicate.

I am a hard core email user; I also Instant Message (IM) when I am on calls. But, I rarely text. I do have Blackberry thumb, but not from texting. And I have a big tendency to actually TALK to people on the phone. Millennials seem to look at communications completely differently than I do.

My daughter was whacking away on her cell phone one evening, so I asked her, “Are you IMing?”. She looked at me and said “No, I am texting”. Hmmm.


Later that night she was in AOL Instant Messenger on one of our many computers and I asked, “So, are you texting your friends?”. She again looked at me, this time seemingly a little concerned with my obvious lack of knowledge, and said “No, I am IMing”. Once again…Hmmm.


To me, if I am on a device and I am exchanging messages with someone in real time, it is always IMing. When I carry on a conversation, be it email, phone, or IM/Texting, I react to an incoming message as if I have been thumped in the head. I feel obligated to reply ASAP.


But, to the Millennials, there is a vast difference between IMing and Texting. IMing is when they are locked down in one location and people know they are there. So, like me, they feel obligated to reply fairly quickly. But, texting on a mobile device is completely different. The sender doesn’t know what the receiver is doing, where they are and even whether they have their phone. So, the receiver feels safe in not replying until they want to.


The average Millennial (at least the ones born after 1990) don’t seem to like to talk to people. They will IM like crazy with people all over the world; they will comment on blogs; they will post their life stories; they will exchange text messages to the tune of literally thousands every month. My 16 year old daughter texted over 7,000 times in one month! And a 13 year old in California texted 14,528 times in one month. Assuming time out for school, meals and sleeping, that is an astounding text message every single minute of every single hour of every single day!


My teenagers have flip phones. Every time they receive a text, they flip open, reply and flip closed. Every time they send, they flip open, send and flip closed. I swear I can actually hear the hinge begging for death.


And how many minutes a month do my kids actually TALK on their cell phones? About 60 minutes per month, at least half of which is to or from their parents.


Oh, and what about email? They swear they have dozens of email addresses spread across MSN, Hotmail and all the social cites. But, they never actually read or write anything. I sent my kids a message titled “READ THIS NOW”. In the text, I offered them $20 each if they would come to me within THREE DAYS and tell me they read it. No winners! I kept my money. To make sure they were still alive, I texted them 3 minutes after sending the email. They were in school, in class. They replied within 1 minute each.


What does all this mean? It means that the types of communications are drastically shifting. That means that the types of networks that are needed are drastically shifting. The bandwidth requirements are totally different. It also means that enhancing voice based services is probably not a long term money maker.


But this isn’t the only thing that is different about the Millennials. More to come.


David Croslin

CTO GigaSpeed International, Inc.


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