I was standing on line at Panera when a conversation between two teenagers piqued my interest. (It was hard for it not too, given the volume at which they were speaking.)
“When did you text him?” asked the taller one, who I’ll call Thelma.
“This morning,” replied her friend, who I’ll call Louise. Her emphasis on the word ‘morning’ led me to believe she wasn’t happy — particularly since it was about 1 p.m.
“And he hasn’t texted you back?”
“No. Is he, like, ghosting me?” Louise asked, her voice steeped in worry.
Thelma waited a beat — perhaps while deciding whether to be blunt or kind — before saying, “Um… yeah.”
“Ghosting?!” I thought. “This is a real thing?”
I had heard of this phenomena on TV shows, but never in a real life conversation. According to Wikipedia, the term refers to “breaking off a relationship by ceasing all communication and contact with the former partner without any apparent warning or justification, as well as avoiding or ignoring and refusing to respond to the former partner’s attempts to reach out or communicate.”
Sounds like legal jargon to me, or at least a very complicated way to say, “You’ve been dumped.” It’s nothing people haven’t been doing for centuries. Only now — as with so many facets of life — it happens much quicker.
But in a matter of hours? All I could think was, have we grown so impatient that if someone fails to return a text the same day, we’re ready to write them off?
The answer, it seems, is yes. The advances in technology that enable us to hail a cab, reserve a table at a restaurant, and book a yoga class, all from the comforts of our couch (or beach chair, or anywhere, for that matter) come with a price, and it’s a hefty one.
The need for instant gratification has reached a point where people can’t wait more than a few seconds for a video to load. A recent study of the viewing habits of 6.7 million Internet users found that subjects started losing patience after two seconds.
“After five seconds, the abandonment rate is 25 percent,” noted Ramesh Sitaraman, a computer science professor at UMass Amherst, and author of the study. “When you get to 10 seconds, half are gone.”
There are countless other statistics demonstrating the impact technology has had on the way we communicate, and how dependent we’ve become. Here are a few of the more shocking examples, courtesy of the NY Post:
- Americans check their phone on average once every 12 minutes, and 80 times per day.
- 31 percent of people feel anxiety when separated from their phone.
- 4 in 10 Americans would rather lose their voice for a day than lose their phone for 24 hours.
- 62 percent would prefer to go a week without chocolate than lose their phone for just one day.
That’s where I draw the line. I use my phone a lot — I’m not going to lie — but I’m proud to say that I don’t fall into the category of hyperconnected people who treat their devices like body parts. However, I’m in the minority (or perhaps not, since I’m certainly not under the age of 35).
The consumers you need to be worried about are the ones checking in every 12 — or, more realistically, 5 — minutes. They want to make appointments, speak with physicians, and do countless other tasks by phone, just as they do with other services. They’re the majority, and forward-thinking CIOs like Tressa Springmann are formulating digital health strategies that will accommodate those demands.
As a healthcare leader, it’s the smart thing to do.
But as a human being, I urge all of you to disconnect on this Memorial Day weekend. Engage with your friends and family, enjoy some fresh air, and eat chocolate.
And if you’re going to “ghost” anything, make it your phone. At least for a little while.