from the world's big
11 things you probably didn’t know about how you communicate online
Researchers tracking the migration of words to digital spaces have uncovered some surprising facts.
- Beyond Zoom and email, channels like social chat and real-time gaming communities are surging.
- These days, brands don't wait for us to find them online – they're coming to us on social media.
- Switching to airplane mode and spending some time in the real world every now and then can be good for both body and mind.
Even before the onset of a global pandemic imposed severe restrictions on our capacity for face-to-face meetings, online communication was starting to dominate.
The average office worker sends 40 business emails each day. Globally, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter all feature in the top 10 most-used websites. Twitter users alone churn out around 9,000 tweets per second, and this number is still growing.
Over recent months, many of us have been entirely dependent on online communication channels at one time or another. However, researchers tracking the migration of words to digital spaces have uncovered some surprising facts – good, bad, and ugly.
1. Too much time online is bad for your health.
Whether we like it or not, most of us are addicted to our mobile devices, with the average American checking his or her phone 80 times a day. About 63 percent take our phones into the bathroom, and 70 percent of people fall asleep each night with their phone in reach.
But your phone compulsion could be doing more damage than you think. From causing sleep deprivation, to "text claw," researchers are uncovering myriad ways that our phone addictions are bad for our health. Switching to airplane mode and spending some time in the real world every now and then can be good for both body and mind.
2. You need to write shorter emails.
It's likely that the phone addiction is to blame, but studies have shown that humans have a shorter attention span than goldfish. Apparently, we can hold a thought for an average of just eight seconds.
So, if you're one of those people who has a tendency to write essays over email, the chances are that your recipient isn't reading all the way to the end. Experts also suggest that long emails send an unwritten message that you don't know your audience, or at least that you don't care so much about the recipient's time.
With this in mind, keep emails short and to the point if you want to maximize their value. Tools like EmailAnalytics can scan your mailbox for metrics such as word count, thread length, and response times. If it starts to look too wordy, then consider picking up the phone.
3. Good grammar could help your love life.
Bad spelling and grammar are widely regarded as a professional no-no. But chances are, you never considered that it could be damaging other areas of your life. A Dutch study of online dating site users found that error-free language is generally linked to attractiveness, meaning that potential dates may find bad grammar off-putting before you ever get the opportunity to dazzle them in person.
Online tools such as Grammarly can help polish up your written communications, and also integrate with your web browser along with word processing software. They'll help spot the kind of spelling and grammar mistakes that often slip through when you're multitasking and typing at speed, helping to polish your written communications.
4. You probably communicate more with brands via social media than their own websites.
These days, brands don't wait for us to find them online – they're coming to us on social media. According to HubSpot, Facebook is the primary content distribution channel for marketers in 2020, taking precedence even over their own websites. However, marketers are also maximizing their footprints across other channels, including Instagram, Pinterest, and Snapchat.
This isn't simply one-way communication, either. According to reports from Social Bakers, in April, PlayStation drew the most interactions of any brand on Twitter with 1.6 million, while Netflix took the top spot on Facebook with nearly 2.5 million likes, comments, and shares.
However, according to Twilio, 83 percent of us still prefer email to engage with brands online – unless it's urgent, in which case, text is the preferred option.
5. Your emails might be more negative than you realize.
The "passive-aggressive" email trope has spawned many a meme. But as the old adage goes, it's funny because it's true. While the memes are amusing, the reality of receiving negative emails is less likely to make anyone laugh. In fact, researchers have found that email "incivility" is a cause of stress in the workplace that many people end up taking home with them, transferring it to their loved ones.
AI can help. Tools such as Boomerang Insights can scan your emails for tone, identifying positive and negative language and even drilling down into how you communicate with individual contacts.
6. For online video presentations, desktop still trumps mobile.
From online courses and training sessions to product demonstrations and remote business meetings, webinars have proven to be a lifeline to many companies and employees affected by the pandemic.
More than 8.5 million people attended some kind of webinar in 2019 on the ClickMeeting platform alone, according to the company. Given the events of 2020, it's likely we'll see that number skyrocket this year.
However, video presentations are one area that don't appear to be transitioning over to mobile – at least not yet. ClickMeeting found that close to 70 percent of us still prefer to log into webinars via desktop rather than mobile.
7. Slack could very well defeat work emails.
Slack just might end up being the work communication tool of choice that so many predicted back when it was first getting popular. Even before most of us had heard of it, Slack was the fastest-growing B2B company in history. By the time the company went public in 2019, it had over 10 million users sending more than a billion messages each week.
What's more, users of Slack are highly engaged. Slack's IPO papers filed with the SEC state that "paid customers averaged nine hours connected through at least one device and spent more than 90 minutes actively using Slack."
Part of its popularity is the fact that Slack does away with the ceremony associated with email. This includes things like a formal greeting, or the expectation of a reply, which are a hangover from the days of letter-writing. In the words of Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, "It's radical collaboration, a different way of working and thinking."
8. WhatsApp is bigger than China.
If WhatsApp users were the population of a country, it would be bigger than China. We send 60 billion messages per day on the SMS-killer. It's used for everything from organizing family gatherings to brand communications, to Netflix recommendations.
But beware of what you're reading on WhatsApp. There are allegations that during the 2018 Brazilian presidential elections, WhatsApp was used to spread false information. In fact, this has become such a problem that WhatsApp has imposed limits on the forwarding of messages, which it claims is helping to slow the spread of fake news.
9. Video chat is going through the roof in 2020.
Due to the coronavirus keeping office workers at home, it's perhaps unsurprising that video chat is having a moment. While there are plenty of platforms now offering this feature, including Skype, Google Hangouts, and text favorite WhatsApp, Zoom is the tool of choice among the American WFH set. The company grew to 300 million meeting participants in April, up from just 10 million in December 2019.
However, this growth hasn't been without controversy. Zoom has come under fire from security and privacy advocates for failing to cover various vulnerabilities in its software. These include having default settings that don't include a password, and allowing any participant to share their screen, even if they've gatecrashed the meeting – a practice known as "zoombombing."
10. You’re probably spending hours every day on chat apps.
We're spending an insane amount of time online these days – close to seven hours a day. Of that, we spend around two hours each day communicating via messaging and social apps on our phones.
This means that these platforms account for the same time spent online on our phones as all other mobile activities combined.
However, the precise amount of time does vary by country. Filipinos hold the global record, with nearly four hours each day on social media and messaging apps. In contrast, American users average around two hours, while the highly-focused Japanese spend only 45 minutes per day.
11. Social gaming has become a major force.
Online social gaming has become a massive industry, worth around $2.4 billion. Discord, the messaging app that was designed for gamers, now handles around 963 million messages per day, with over 10 million players online at peak times.
Sure, that's a fraction of the message volume that WhatsApp sees in a day, but it's still eye-opening in terms of the power of the social, conversational layer to the gamer's experience.
Furthermore, the stereotypical gamers aren't kids in their bedrooms. According to the World Economic Forum, the average U.S. gamer is 35 years old, with players over 50 accounting for 13 percent of the total in both male and female groups. With an audience of 665 million, more people watch video gameplay than major table networks and subscription TV services.
Changing norms for communication
With social distancing likely to remain a norm for months, if not years, to come, online communication is only set to keep growing. Thankfully, the popularity of video and voice chat gives us a means of keeping human contact more present during these times.
However, the question is, when things go back to normal, will physical face time (as opposed to FaceTime) ever hold the same value again? Only time will tell.
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Higher education faces challenges that are unlike any other industry. What path will ASU, and universities like ASU, take in a post-COVID world?
- Everywhere you turn, the idea that coronavirus has brought on a "new normal" is present and true. But for higher education, COVID-19 exposes a long list of pernicious old problems more than it presents new problems.
- It was widely known, yet ignored, that digital instruction must be embraced. When combined with traditional, in-person teaching, it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale.
- COVID-19 has forced institutions to understand that far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted.
What conditions of the new normal were already appreciated widely?<p>First, we understand that higher education is unique among industries. Some industries are governed by markets. Others are run by governments. Most operate under the influence of both markets and governments. And then there's higher education. Higher education as an "industry" involves public, private, and for-profit universities operating at small, medium, large, and now massive scales. Some higher education industry actors are intense specialists; others are adept generalists. Some are fantastically wealthy; others are tragically poor. Some are embedded in large cities; others are carefully situated near farms and frontiers.</p> <p>These differences demonstrate just some of the complexities that shape higher education. Still, we understand that change in the industry is underway, and we must be active in directing it. Yet because of higher education's unique (and sometimes vexing) operational and structural conditions, many of the lessons from change management and the science of industrial transformation are only applicable in limited or highly modified ways. For evidence of this, one can look at various perspectives, including those that we have offered, on such topics as <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/blogs/rethinking-higher-education/lessons-disruption" target="_blank">disruption</a>, <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/20/education/learning/education-technology.html" target="_blank">technology management</a>, and so-called "<a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/sites/default/server_files/media/Excerpt_IHESpecialReport_Growing-Role-of-Mergers-in-Higher-Ed.pdf" target="_blank">mergers and acquisitions</a>" in higher education. In each of these spaces, the "market forces" and "market rules" for higher education are different than they are in business, or even in government. This has always been the case and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p> <p>Second, with so much excitement about innovation in higher education, we sometimes lose sight of the fact that students are—and should remain—the core cause for innovation. Higher education's capacity to absorb new ideas is strong. But the ideas that endure are those designed to benefit students, and therefore society. This is important to remember because not all innovations are designed with students in mind. The recent history of innovation in higher education includes several cautionary tales of what can happen when institutional interests—or worse, <a href="https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/02/09/apollos-new-owners-seek-fresh-start-beleaguered-company" target="_blank">shareholder</a> interests—are placed above student well-being.</p>
Photo: Getty Images<p>Third, it is abundantly apparent that universities must leverage technology to increase educational quality and access. The rapid shift to delivering an education that complies with social distancing guidelines speaks volumes about the adaptability of higher education institutions, but this transition has also posed unique difficulties for colleges and universities that had been slow to adopt digital education. The last decade has shown that online education, implemented effectively, can meet or even surpass the quality of in-person <a href="https://link-springer-com.ezproxy1.lib.asu.edu/article/10.1007/s10639-019-10027-z" target="_blank">instruction</a>.</p><p>Digital instruction, broadly defined, leverages online capabilities and integrates adaptive learning methodologies, predictive analytics, and innovations in instructional design to enable increased student engagement, personalized learning experiences, and improved learning outcomes. The ability of these technologies to transcend geographic barriers and to shrink the marginal cost of educating additional students makes them essential for delivering education at scale.</p><p>As a bonus, and it is no small thing given that they are the core cause for innovation, students embrace and enjoy digital instruction. It is their preference to learn in a format that leverages technology. This should not be a surprise; it is now how we live in all facets of life.</p><p>Still, we have only barely begun to conceive of the impact digital education will have. For example, emerging virtual and augmented reality technologies that facilitate interactive, hands-on learning will transform the way that learners acquire and apply new knowledge. Technology-enabled learning cannot replace the traditional college experience or ensure the survival of any specific college, but it can enhance student learning outcomes at scale. This has always been the case, and it is made more obvious by COVID-19.</p>
What conditions of the new normal were emerging suspicions?<p>Our collective thinking about the role of institutional or university-to-university collaboration and networking has benefitted from a new clarity in light of COVID-19. We now recognize more than ever that colleges and universities must work together to ensure that the American higher education system is resilient and sufficiently robust to meet the needs of students and their families.</p> <p>In recent weeks, various commentators have suggested that higher education will face a wave of institutional <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/scott-galloway-predicts-colleges-will-close-due-to-pandemic-2020-5" target="_blank">closures</a> and consolidations and that large institutions with significant online instruction capacity will become dominant.</p> <p>While ASU is the largest public university in the United States by enrollment and among the most well-equipped in online education, we strongly oppose "let them fail" mindsets. The strength of American higher education relies on its institutional diversity, and on the ability of colleges and universities to meet the needs of their local communities and educate local students. The needs of learners are highly individualized, demanding a wide range of options to accommodate the aspirations and learning styles of every kind of student. Education will become less relevant and meaningful to students, and less responsive to local needs, if institutions of higher learning are allowed to fail. </p> <p>Preventing this outcome demands that colleges and universities work together to establish greater capacity for remote, distributed education. This will help institutions with fewer resources adapt to our new normal and continue to fulfill their mission of serving students, their families, and their communities. Many had suspected that collaboration and networking were preferable over letting vulnerable colleges fail. COVID-19's new normal seems to be confirming this.</p>
President Barack Obama delivers the commencement address during the Arizona State University graduation ceremony at Sun Devil Stadium May 13, 2009 in Tempe, Arizona. Over 65,000 people attended the graduation.
Photo by Joshua Lott/Getty Images<p>A second condition of the new normal that many had suspected to be true in recent years is the limited role that any one university or type of university can play as an exemplar to universities more broadly. For decades, the evolution of higher education has been shaped by the widespread imitation of a small number of elite universities. Most public research universities could benefit from replicating Berkeley or Michigan. Most small private colleges did well by replicating Williams or Swarthmore. And all universities paid close attention to Harvard, Princeton, MIT, Stanford, and Yale. It is not an exaggeration to say that the logic of replication has guided the evolution of higher education for centuries, both in the US and abroad.</p><p>Only recently have we been able to move beyond replication to new strategies of change, and COVID-19 has confirmed the legitimacy of doing so. For example, cases such as <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/education/2020/03/10/harvard-moves-classes-online-advises-students-stay-home-after-spring-break-response-covid-19/" target="_blank">Harvard's</a> eviction of students over the course of less than one week or <a href="https://www.nhregister.com/news/coronavirus/article/Mayor-New-Haven-asks-for-coronavirus-help-Yale-15162606.php" target="_blank">Yale's apparent reluctance</a> to work with the city of New Haven, highlight that even higher education's legacy gold standards have limits and weaknesses. We are hopeful that the new normal will include a more active and earnest recognition that we need many types of universities. We think the new normal invites us to rethink the very nature of "gold standards" for higher education.</p>
A graduate student protests MIT's rejection of some evacuation exemption requests.
Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images<p>Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we had started to suspect and now understand that America's colleges and universities are among the many institutions of democracy and civil society that are, by their very design, incapable of being sufficiently responsive to the full spectrum of modern challenges and opportunities they face. Far too many higher education outcomes are determined by a student's family income, and in the context of COVID-19 this means that lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color will be disproportionately afflicted. And without new designs, we can expect postsecondary success for these same students to be as elusive in the new normal, as it was in the <a href="http://pellinstitute.org/indicators/reports_2019.shtml" target="_blank">old normal</a>. This is not just because some universities fail to sufficiently recognize and engage the promise of diversity, this is because few universities have been designed from the outset to effectively serve the unique needs of lower-income students, first-generation students and students of color.</p>
Where can the new normal take us?<p>As colleges and universities face the difficult realities of adapting to COVID-19, they also face an opportunity to rethink their operations and designs in order to respond to social needs with greater agility, adopt technology that enables education to be delivered at scale, and collaborate with each other in order to maintain the dynamism and resilience of the American higher education system.</p> <p>COVID-19 raises questions about the relevance, the quality, and the accessibility of higher education—and these are the same challenges higher education has been grappling with for years. </p> <p>ASU has been able to rapidly adapt to the present circumstances because we have spent nearly two decades not just anticipating but <em>driving</em> innovation in higher education. We have adopted a <a href="https://www.asu.edu/about/charter-mission-and-values" target="_blank">charter</a> that formalizes our definition of success in terms of "who we include and how they succeed" rather than "<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2019/10/17/forget-varsity-blues-madness-lets-talk-about-students-who-cant-afford-college/" target="_blank">who we exclude</a>." We adopted an entrepreneurial <a href="https://president.asu.edu/read/higher-logic" target="_blank">operating model</a> that moves at the speed of technological and social change. We have launched initiatives such as <a href="https://www.instride.com/how-it-works/" target="_blank">InStride</a>, a platform for delivering continuing education to learners already in the workforce. We developed our own robust technological capabilities in ASU <a href="https://edplus.asu.edu/" target="_blank">EdPlus</a>, a hub for research and development in digital learning that, even before the current crisis, allowed us to serve more than 45,000 fully online students. We have also created partnerships with other forward-thinking institutions in order to mutually strengthen our capabilities for educational accessibility and quality; this includes our role in co-founding the <a href="https://theuia.org/" target="_blank">University Innovation Alliance</a>, a consortium of 11 public research universities that share data and resources to serve students at scale. </p> <p>For ASU, and universities like ASU, the "new normal" of a post-COVID world looks surprisingly like the world we already knew was necessary. Our record breaking summer 2020 <a href="https://asunow.asu.edu/20200519-sun-devil-life-summer-enrollment-sets-asu-record" target="_blank">enrollment</a> speaks to this. What COVID demonstrates is that we were already headed in the right direction and necessitates that we continue forward with new intensity and, we hope, with more partners. In fact, rather than "new normal" we might just say, it's "go time." </p>
Melting ice is turning up bodies on Mt. Everest. This isn't as shocking as you'd think.
- Mt. Everest is the final resting place of about 200 climbers who never made it down.
- Recent glacial melting, caused by climate change, has made many of the bodies previously hidden by ice and snow visible again.
- While many bodies are quite visible and well known, others are renowned for being lost for decades.
Why leave the bodies there at all? Why not bring people down as soon as they die?<p>It costs a lot of money to go get a body on the highest mountain in the world, up to $80,000 to be <a href="https://people.com/human-interest/dead-bodies-mount-everest-glaciers-melt/" target="_blank">precise</a>. Then there is the problem of actually doing it, since some attempts to retrieve bodies are forced by difficult conditions to abandon their efforts.</p><p>Some people, such as mountaineer <a href="http://www.alanarnette.com/" target="_blank">Alan Arnette</a>, argue that the bodies should be left there. He told the BBC, "Most climbers like to be left on the mountains if they died. So it would be deemed disrespectful to just remove them unless they need to be moved from the climbing route or their families want them."</p> This doesn't stop people from wanting the bodies taken down or dealt with in other ways. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Sharp_(mountaineer)" target="_blank">David Sharp</a>'s body was moved out of sight in 2007. <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Mallory" target="_blank">George Mallory'</a>s body took 75 years to find and was given an Anglican burial in 1999. Over time, the elements often move bodies away from the main routes up the mountain to more isolated areas where they remain undisturbed.
Everest’s chilling landmarks<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="V4Kz3Zfc" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="9959d7e5b2866ad9f61ab823a5b60cbf"> <div id="botr_V4Kz3Zfc_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/V4Kz3Zfc-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/V4Kz3Zfc-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/V4Kz3Zfc-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> <p>The bodies that remain in view are often used as waypoints for the living. Some of them are well-known markers that have earned <a href="https://www.ranker.com/list/creepy-stories-about-deaths-and-dead-bodies-on-mount-everest/sabrina-ithal" target="_blank">nicknames</a>. </p><p> For instance, the image above is of "<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_Boots" target="_blank">Green Boots</a>," the unidentified corpse named for its neon footwear. Widely believed to be the body of Tsewang Paljor, the remains are well known as a guide point for passing mountaineers. Perhaps it is too well known, as the climber David Sharp died next to Green Boots while dozens of people walked past him — many presuming he was the famous corpse. </p><p>A large area below the summit has earned the discordant nickname "Rainbow Valley" for being filled with the bright and colorfully dressed corpses of maintainers who never made it back down. The sight of a frozen hand or foot sticking out of the snow is so common that Tshering Pandey Bhote, vice president of Nepal National Mountain Guides Association claimed: "Most climbers are mentally prepared to come across such a sight."</p><p>Other bodies are famous for not having been found yet. Andrew "Sandy" Irvine, the climbing partner of George Mallory, may have been one of the first two people to reach the summit of Everest a full 30 years before Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay did it. Since they never made it back down, nobody knows just how close to the top they made it. </p><p>Mallory's frozen body was found by chance in the '90s without the Kodak cameras he brought up to record the climb with. It has been speculated that Irvine might have them and <a href="https://web.archive.org/web/20130303001517/http://www.velocitypress.com/Mallory__Irvine.html#A127_Film" target="_blank">Kodak </a>says they could still develop the film if the cameras turn up. Circumstantial evidence suggests that they died on the way back down from the summit, Mallory had his goggles off and a photo of his wife he said he'd put at the peak wasn't in his coat. If Irvine is found with that camera, history books might need rewriting. </p><p>As Everest's glaciers melt its morbid history comes into clearer view. Will the melting cause old bodies to become new landmarks? Will Sandy Irvine be found? Only time will tell. </p>
Human brains evolved for creativity. We just have to learn how to access it.
- An all-star cast of Big Thinkers—actors Rainn Wilson and Ethan Hawke; composer Anthony Brandt; neuroscientists David Eagleman, Wendy Suzuki, and Beau Lotto; and psychologist Scott Barry Kaufman—share how they define creativity and explain how our brains uniquely evolved for the phenomenon.
- According to Eagleman, during evolution there was an increase in space between our brain's input and output that allows information more time to percolate. We also grew a larger prefrontal cortex which "allows us to simulate what ifs, to separate ourselves from our location in space and time and think about possibilities."
- Scott Barry Kaufman details 3 brain networks involved in creative thinking, and Wendy Suzuki busts the famous left-brain, right-brain myth.
Manly Bands wanted to improve on mens' wedding bands. Mission accomplished.
- Manly Bands was founded in 2016 to provide better options and customer service in men's wedding bands.
- Unique materials include antler, dinosaur bones, meteorite, tungsten, and whiskey barrels.
- The company donates a portion of profits to charity every month.
The proposal calls for the American public to draft two candidates to lead the executive branch: one from the center-left, the other from the center-right.