Finding Balance Between Mobile Usage And Personal Connections

Rob Heuser

Our family was lucky enough to recently spend time in Chicago, Paris, and London. Having previously been to London, I was quite familiar with the city, however it was my first trip to Paris, and I was truly amazed and delighted by the architecture, the culture, and the food.

The enormity of the Arc de Triomphe, all of the artifacts in the Louvre, the absolutely breathtaking gardens of Versailles, and views from the Eiffel Tower left us speechless and wanting more. To our friends in Paris – you truly have a beautiful and amazing city.

We all are phone addicts. Admit it – you probably are worried about what’s popping up next on Twitter or checking something on your phone. Phones are handy – I used mine multiple times on the trip to figure out currency conversions – but we must ask ourselves, “Are we using them intelligently and responsibly?”

Discovering a balance between online and IRL

In recent years, with the explosion of social media and other interruption-driven activities in our society, I’m saddened by the lack of real, interpersonal communication. Sure, keeping in touch with my relatives and friends I rarely see is great on social media, but I don’t need constant bombardment with an endless stream of low-value information.

This came back to me multiple times walking the Champs-Elysee, exploring the garden at the Palace of Versailles, and visiting other interesting places and seeing fellow tourists wander aimlessly about, fixated on their mobile device and missing all that surrounds them. Riding a hop-on/hop-off bus in London, there were many people playing on their phone instead of enjoying the tour and the sights.

Another time, a teenage girl was leaving the hotel elevator clutching her phone as if it was a life-support device. Just before the doors closed, two teenage boys wandered in a zombie-like state, not communicating nor making eye contact with each other or the folks in the elevator. Nor did either one remember to press the button for their floor. I don’t think they did anything but text (maybe each other) while on the phone.

I did see something though that was really quite unique. One evening we took a dinner cruise on the Seine, and as we passed further from central Paris, we saw folks sitting on the side of the river sharing experiences without using a mobile phone.

People were drinking their beverages of choice, telling stories, some were dancing, and all were just generally enjoying themselves. What I found heartwarming was that virtually none of them were using mobile devices. It was all human-to-human contact, and they all looked happy. Maybe the French have something figured out. Of course, we were using our phones to take pictures of them, so….

Mobile and technology converged many times on our trip, letting us enjoy more of our vacation. One example is the short-term electric scooter rentals that startups, such as Bird, Lime, and Jump, are seeding throughout major cities. A few times when we wanted to get somewhere quickly or were just worn out, we’d grab a scooter and quickly get to our next destination. To use one, you simply use your phone to scan a QR code on the scooter, which unlocks it and you are off.

Balancing mobile usage in modern times

The Internet of Things (IoT) enables this by placing the equivalent of a small modem on the scooter that sends and receives data with the provider’s system – without this, the economics of on-demand scooter rentals wouldn’t work. This modem unlocks and locks the device, exchanges location and device health data back to the rental company, and probably communicates a number of other things about how the rider is using the scooter.

At the train station in London, while buying another suitcase to carry all the souvenirs we purchased, we had a fraud alert event. Our bank noticed a potentially fraudulent international charge, sent my wife an SMS, and, by simply replying “Yes” via SMS, and she was able to instantly clear the fraud alert and get back to spending. All this was enabled with mobile and provided a great experience.

In other blogs, I’ve extolled the virtues of how mobile makes a journey more enjoyable, with services like on-demand rides, mobile ticketing, and other mobile-only services. But we need to use mobile properly and effectively – like most things, a mobile phone has a time and a place, but that place isn’t everywhere and the time isn’t all the time.

I really like something I saw on the Eurostar from Paris to London. Taking a break from reading the latest mindless news on my phone (yes, I’m guilty too) I noticed a video playing on the train monitor was imploring riders to take new adventures this summer on Eurostar. Along with some candid photos and video clips, Eurostar promoted one of their slogans: “Ask a local, not your phone.” Try it – you might even make a new friend!

Examine Digital Media And New Communications Paradigms In The Digital Age.

This article originally appeared on Future of Customer Engagement and Experience.

Rob Heuser

About Rob Heuser

Rob brings more than 20 years of mobile messaging and telecommunications insights and experiences from a variety of sales and product management roles. Currently, he leads a team in SAP Digital Interconnect's North America sales organization, creating and delivering winning mobile customer engagements to enterprise customers in the travel, banking, logistics, retail and social media industry segments. Follow him on Twitter (@robheuser_sap) or drop him an e-mail at