A FRIEND of mine recently talked about how tough it was to communicate with teenagers today. His job requires frequently being around teenagers and he found his solicitations for conversation often greeted with grunts and groans and distracted stares.
“How are you today?”
“Mmmmmmhhmm … Gnnnnnnnnhhhh,” comes the grunted response. This is swiftly followed by an abrupt motion as the youth whips out his mobile device, turns around and starts pushing keys, effectively ending the conversation.
Granted, this kind of behaviour isn’t entirely new. SMS has been around for ages, and yes, it’s annoying when someone starts checking his SMS messages in the middle of conversation (which isn’t good courtesy to begin with).
But this time, on his mobile device, the youth isn’t sending or checking an SMS though; he’s just zoned out of the face-to-face conversation and posting on the Facebook wall of another friend using some new-fangled service called Facebook Zero.
It’s amazing to see how social tools and services have slowly changed and morphed the way we not only communicate but organised ourselves.
What Facebook Zero did since it launched in February 2010 was to enable hundreds of thousands of Malaysian teenagers (and older folk) to access their Facebook profiles while on the go for free. Free, being the definitive word.
So now, I’m suddenly seeing plenty of young people on their low-end Nokia and Sony Ericsson phones browsing Facebook and chatting to each other. The barrier’s been lifted.
You no longer need a smartphone that can run “apps” or a monthly mobile data plan; you just need your regular prepaid plan and a working phone.
Then there’s this new thing where everyone’s setting up dates and parties using Facebook Events.
No, this feature is not a new tool, but it seems to me (within my admittedly limited circle) that it’s become the RSVP service du jour. This year alone, I’ve gotten invites to weddings, to go to the mamak, concerts, birthday parties and to attend church.
Maybe it’s just my friends, but even something as mundane as setting up a time where four friends can go out for a movie now needs to be sent via a Facebook Event.
Notice I’ve not mentioned the usual whizbang suspects for the next great social media revolution happening this year.
It’s easy to crow over the next iPad (coming soon) or mobile device, but when you realise that most of the young people out there still won’t be able to afford those gadgets nor the price of the data packages that come along with them, real behavioural change isn’t going to happen from the top-end alone.
Yes, it’ll trickle down eventually, but what will change us in 2011 are the things that will have a mass effect. What will be the Facebook Zero of 2011? What will cause us to change what we’re doing today?
Here’s my prediction (based solely on my gut feel): I expect to see mobile commerce and Internet purchasing finally becoming commonplace. I think there might just be enough platforms which will be accessible enough to get more people using them in a big way.
Actually, the foundations were laid this year such as Facebook Credits in partnership with MOL and the PayPal top-up card, and the ability to withdraw money you’ve made on PayPal to your Malaysian bank account.
Previously, you had to have a credit card (or at least access to it) meaning you had to be in your 20s and working or you had really generous parents. With the advent of Facebook credits and top-up cards for PayPal, these barriers are again coming down. And it won’t take long for people to start discovering they can buy stuff cheaper on the Internet.
q What do you think will be the change 2011 will bring? Write to David Lian at email@example.com and let him know or tweet him at twitter.com/davidlian.