The End of Social?

Posted on November 28, 2011

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One reason that Airfoil Public Relations has earned a reputation at the top of America’s best technology PR firms is its predilection for expressing a point of view about issues that matter most in our digital society. But its latest POV is certainly Airfoil’s boldest, with its prediction that that “social” will go away in 2012.

The agency clarifies that declaration with this explanation:

“In 2012, we challenge you to make this subtle but profound shift in thinking. Consider that social networking is networking; e-commerce is commerce; ‘digital marketing is marketing; and online audiences are, simply, audiences. It is in this way that qualifiers like ‘social” and ‘online’ will ultimately become irrelevant and their usage the mark of someone who still regards anything from the digital realm as a mysterious phenomena to be decoded rather than utilized.”

Hemingway would be proud, I suppose, at the discarding of these adjectives, however difficult it may be for some to embrace. Airfoil’s perspective really offers insight into just how completely the virtual world has swallowed up what we used to call the world of “bricks and mortar,” “hands on,” and “face to face.” The distinction, to the extent that it still exists, now is meaningless.  As Airfoil states:

“There is already a fragile line separating the social, digital and virtual from actual experiences, but it will become even more tenuous in 2012.”

Moreover, if “social” goes away next year, we will need to wave goodbye as well to a number of its cousins that have populated our vocabulary for a couple decades now.  While not wrapped into Airfoil’s point of view, here are half a dozen of my own predictions for terms that will be deleted from our screens in 2012:

“e-“ 

A logical corollary to the demise of “social,” as Airfoil implies.  We just don’t need it anymore.

“computer”

We’ll be talking about “devices” with little differentiation among them. Every digital device will have computing abilities, and “computer” will just be too restrictive a term. Already, few of us refer to our “laptop computers”; they’re just “laptops.”

“online/digital edition”

The digital world will complete its evolution as the primary edition for newspapers, newscasts and TV programs.  For the few remaining holdouts, paper and televisions will become extensions of the news and entertainment we view on our screens.

“mouse”

Natural user interfaces (NUIs) will rapidly replace or augment graphical user interfaces (GUIs), and we’ll soon be using Kinect-style gestures to control our devices. In fact, we’ve already nearly abandoned the mouse in favor of smart phone and tablet touch screens.

“hands-free”

When we can’t gesture, voice commands will become the normal way to operate our devices and vehicles.  “Hands-free” will be assumed, just as we assume cars are equipped with automatic transmissions and theaters will be air-conditioned.  Only exceptions to these normal circumstances will need to be stated.

“smart phone/cell phone/mobile phone”

Dumb phones die within weeks in the selective atmosphere of digital competition. All mobile devices will be capable of activating any of tens of thousands of apps.  Using these devices for making phone calls will seem quaint, and bragging about a mobile phone will make the owner seem decrepit. It’ll simply be a “mobile device,” “mobile” (from the British) or “handheld” in 2012, with the capability for voice communication.

What are your predictions for passé parlance in 2012?  Speak me a post (my prediction for a new term in 2012) and share your thoughts.

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