I just met with a group of high school students and realized they’d experienced another shift in how they communicate with others. We were conversing about how we could stay in touch, and I suggested we could text. They smiled patronizingly, as if they were interacting with their grandpa, and offered another option.
Hmmm. Just when I thought I was caught up on contemporary culture.
“We don’t have a need for texting anymore,” one of them said to me. “We send pics. It’s a more interactive way of communicating.”
They’re right. Snapchat—an app that allows users to send photos to one another that disappear after a few seconds—has taken over many teen’s portable devices. So has Instagram. It may well be the future of phone interaction. Just like Facebook, once parents and teachers began to figure out how to use text messaging, students were bound to find new ways to communicate.
It wasn’t that long ago I reported to readers that teens today send about 3,000 texts a month, or about a hundred a day. That’s changing now. And not just for teens but for all ages. As a whole, people are texting less now than we used to. According to Chetan Sharma Consulting, “The average U.S. cell phone user sends about 628 text messages per quarter, down 8 percent from a year ago.”
Meanwhile, snapping photos has become the most widely used function of mobile phones, and it includes Snapchat, Instagram Direct, and Apps like Kik and Wikr.
Do you see the pattern?
The Power of a Picture
It’s visual. They are exploring the benefits of image-based communication. Often times, no words are even necessary. For example, texting the phrase, “I’m bored” necessitates a follow up reply, “Why are you bored? Where are you? How bored are you?” But sending that message over a photo of you sitting in an empty classroom, darkened and bland because you got a detention today—tells the story in an image.
Journalist Victor Luckerson suggests our world is going more digital and more visual. He’s right. Whether we like it or not, we are communicating more than ever before, but finding words less necessary and less compelling. Images are the preferred mode of messaging. NCAA football coaches are using images to call plays, snap counts, and formations; faculty are using video and other forms of visual aids; and major corporations are finding it less needful to use any words to convey their brand. Think of unique icons, such as Nike’s “Swoosh,” McDonalds’ arches, or Apple’s apple.
Months ago, I completed a research article called, “In Other Words.” In it, I attempt to explain the macro migration toward images as students attempt to communicate and learn. We are in a new day, where we must master the art of using images, metaphors, stories and other forms of visuals to reach students. It’s why our Habitudes® have been so effective, used now in over 7,000 schools and organizations. They are all about learning life and leadership through the power of an image, a conversation and an experience.
So, here’s my question: Are you going to insist on using the methods you’ve always used to teach, coach and communicate with young people? Or are you willing to acknowledge this swelling trend and apply what it’s teaching us?