Why can’t I see you?

I was doing a bit of business travel lately & had an experience worth sharing. One morning, while catching up with my wife on what was happening on the homefront, she asked my three year-old if she wanted to talk with daddy. What my wife observed next has stuck with me for the past couple of days, and may just be foretelling of where things are moving.

My daughter reluctantly put the phone up to her ear. She said “hi” in the cutest voice possible, but when I started speaking, all I heard was silence on her end. Normally she would have no problem answering my questions, so I was confused. Talking to my wife afterward, I got the whole story. Apparently, upon hearing my voice, my daughter’s first reaction was to pull the phone away from her ear in order to look at the screen. She has been conditioned to associate hearing my voice with seeing my face.

Although she’s still very young, she already learned and became comfortable with this behavior through her interactions with grandma and grandpa over FaceTime and Skype. She is not only comfortable with having conversations online, but she expects it. As we all become more used to these modern technologies, we’ve also become conditioned to expect to be able to see our counterparts’ face and surroundings. When my daughter sees my face, she’s able engage more deeply in our conversation than if she were to simply hear my voice. As we continue to be conditioned to be comfortable with technology, this expectation begins to feel increasingly instinctual.

My daughter isn’t alone in this, other kids are reacting the same way. Recently, we conducted a project with a media company that was interested in talking to six year olds about their television preferences. If you’ve ever interacted with a six year old, you know how challenging it can be to channel their attention. Now imagine talking to six, six year old boys – all strangers to each other – all at once on an online platform. Chaos, right?

We actually found the opposite to be true. Like my daughter, these boys were used to engaging online, through real-time video. Not only were they comfortable with the technology, but they were able to engage from within a familiar, comfortable context: their own homes, with their parents safely nearby. Had these kids been asked to come into a facility, they might not have been as comfortable to speak up. If brands want to understand kids, they have to be open to having conversations. Kids don’t have the attention span (or the reading ability) to accurately respond to a survey and talking to their parents won’t be an accurate representation of a child’s real perspective or behavior.

While today’s children are digital natives, the rest of us aren’t that far behind. We’re used to talking to each other over video. By contrast, taking the time to drive to a physical location to be interviewed in a sterile context would feel foreign to many of us. Connecting online and over video has become instinctual – the new norm – for many of us.

 

Kirk O’Connor is a Discuss.io Account Executive working with our customers in the Eastern US.  You can reach out to us to learn more about Kirk and how he is enabling “agile empathy” between our clients and their consumer targets globally, by e-mailing Kirk at kirk@discuss.io or info@discuss.io.

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