Frequent the mainstream media and you may have noticed occasional snippets about our growing fascination with mobile computing, digital cultures and social media.
Twenty seconds here about diners stacking their smart phones, the first to reach for his unit getting stuck with the bill; a quick headline there about studies highlighting the growing propensity of social media users to check in at odd or even embarrassing times; even passing mention of the fact that of the several recent mass killers, many were obsessed with violent video games, spending up to 18 hours per day playing.
But with everything else going on these days you could be forgiven for missing the fact that there is anything here worth following.
Dig a little deeper, the mobile computing professional blogs and zines for example, and you uncover another layer of information, this time using the term “social media addiction” (SMA) and describing a growing proportion of mobile and social media users finding themselves tied to their magical screens.
You’ll find statistics indicating that growing percentages — like 15, 25 and 49, depending on age — find themselves checking their Facebook or other social media pages in the middle of the night, in the bathroom, in school, at dinner, during conversations, even during intimate moments. With social media users in the billions worldwide, even small percentages here translate into real numbers. There are even websites acknowledging SMA and offering to “use social media addiction to maximize your marketing effort.”
Finally, drill all the way down to sites representing the human behavior counseling and research world and you find real concern that social media and other elements of the mobile computing landscape may be providing a growing outlet for a variety of potentially debilitating behaviors. For many users, while there may be no controlled substances involved, these behaviors rise to the level of clinical addiction. Indeed, it appears that social media addiction is on its way to inclusion as a recognized clinical disorder in the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders), the “Bible” for clinical practitioners worldwide. Taken together, these realities constitute a growing set of problems exposing the underbelly of the mobile computing world.
Something this way comes, and it ain't beanbag.
Clouds on the Horizon for Mobile Computing Industry?
So what does this mean for an industry that stakes its future on a constantly expanding and enthusiastic marketplace for mobile devices, accessories, software applications and participation sites like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like?
At first look, it might appear that the two aren't connected. But this view may fail to recognize that health of the mobile computing market depends on public embrace of the next great new device or software applications for themselves and their children, and that public has a way of reacting — and over-reacting — to things they come to view as threatening. There are a number of ways this reaction has manifested itself, any of them potentially spelling trouble for an industry finely tuned to expect large volume sales of each succeeding release or new model.
It doesn't much matter what the cause, the effect can still be dramatic.
Microsoft, for example, sold nearly two million of its recently released Surface RT tablet computer, yet faced a US$ 1 billion dollar write down and the end of its CEO’s career. Admittedly, the reasons were different in Microsoft’s case, but the impacts show us the potential effect of shocks to any part of the mobile marketplace.
Big Brother… er, Government Regulation
There is another cloud on the horizon whenever the public perceives threat: government intervention.
Governments often react to complaints from key segments of their voting constituencies by:
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