Think of this as Volume 14, Number 17 of A-Clue.com, the online newsletter I've written since 1997. Enjoy.
What's going on is now a generation-long trend. Asynchronicity.
(The illustration here is from John Suler's very fine 2002 work, The Psychology of Cyberspace.)
Most electronic messaging is, by its nature, asynchronous. That is, the two parties don't need to be together in time or space for communication to happen. (When we're doing things at the same time, that's synchronous. Asynchronous is its opposite. Hence asynchronicity.)
As we become busier, by choice, by habit, or because we have to, the need for asynchronicity naturally grows, and the desire for better forms of asynchronicity grows as well.
As Suler's article notes, asynchronicity is just one aspect of how our lives change in a cyber world. Suler calls such things as disassociative anonymity, invisibility, and solipsistic interjection part of The Online Disinhibition Effect. It's supposed to explain why we flame, participate in web mobs, and do other things we feel distant from but which have immense impacts on our targets.
All true, but it's asynchronicity which, to me, is the most important skill to master.
In my case, I was amazed and a bit hurt 25 years ago when I learned that many top editors for whom I had e-mail addresses didn't respond to my e-mails. Now I understand. There's just no time. Even after getting rid of the spam, I have more pitches and requests than I know what to do with. The only way to deal with them is from within my anti-spam program -- if I see something of interest I respond right away or not at all.
This is not a great thing for me. I am certain I'm missing some good stuff. But I don't have time to do my writing, and to find things to write about, otherwise. Most PR pitches are so self-serving, so useless in a blog post, that they can easily be ignored. I'm just afraid I'm missing some good ones. In fact I know I am.
Most of the trends of this decade are efforts to deal with this problem, to make communication more asynchronous. Social networks like LinkedIn (for grayhairs) or Facebook (for brownhairs) deliver relevant contact information at a glance. Here's my e-mail address, here's my Twitter feed. I'll get back to you when I can.
The biggest problem those over-40 have in the business world is dealing with this increased need for, and desire for, asynchronicity. Take my job of reporting. I can't get anyone on the phone. I can't get quotes into my story. I'm not really there. Sit through a press conference -- even a webinar? Please. I don't have time. No one does. Here, I'll send you some questions via e-mail, you answer them, and we'll see if they come back in time. They probably won't.
I wish I had the money and time to find someone who could organize all this for me, who would separate the wheat from the chaff in my e-mail, point me to the real offers, answer my phone and (more important) place those calls I don't have time for. As asynchronicity grows, in other words, so too does the need for real people to manage our asynchronous communications.
We don't call these people secretaries any more. They're personal assistants. If you're organized, if you can manage someone else's time and space and life, you have immense economic value. And I don't see that value diminishing with time. (Anne Hathaway played a personal assistant opposite Meryl Streep in the 2006 film The Devil Wears Prada.
Asynchronicity is the only way to deal with our global village. I have friends in China, in Japan, in Italy, in Germany, in England and across the U.S. Tools like e-mail are essential in that world. They work when they can, I respond when I can, and things move around-and-around.
Another important point about synchronicity. It benefits those who can read and write. You can communicate thoughts more quickly, still, with words than with anything else. The editing is easy, the set-up is immediate. I think the sites that are filling with video are missing an important point here. I don't have time for video, unless its entertainment value is high or unless I have set aside time for education and need to see it, hear it, feel it to understand it. All these 30-second ads on Web pages are just a waste of my time -- I'd rather hear my tunes than their slogans any day.
Dealing with asynchronicity is a valuable skill. Those parents who are worried about their kids' texting, or Twittering, or Facebooking are wrong. The kids are all right. They're learning things that will help them in their futures.
My point today isn't to condemn or praise asynchronicity. I'm just pointing out its importance to you, and its necessity. Learn to master it. It's a big key to success in the 21st century.