The future had a lot of promise as the Internet was invented. A connected world where work became more simple, where life's frustrations simply vanished because of the addition of innovation to our lives. 2021 arrives and we haven't realized that dream in many ways, some would say that the dream is becoming a nightmare, as technology is rapidly complicating our lives, and creating new frustrations, as our lives become more and more frustrating.
Effective technology was intended to make our lives more simple, safer, and more human centered. As we go forward in time, we have found new ideas that start out as highly useful, but as the ideas become essential to us, the costs of integrating these services into our lives grow, as well does the engagement with these services that we need to maintain.
If you look back at the price of a cup of coffee in the 80s, you may see that it rarely exceeded $1 a cup almost everywhere, and was readily available for sale almost everywhere as well, from street vendors pushing mobile carts, to every restaurant you could visit. It was entrepreneurial minded individuals that invented the practice of roasting custom-engineered coffee beans sourced from exotic locations that elevated the cost of coffee worldwide, with the goal of creating a brand new market of gourmet coffee, even to the point where it elevated the price of non-gourmet coffee well beyond the $1 mark. Later on, other engineers invented flavors for coffees, and even nontraditional practices of adding things like alternative milk and even (gasp) butter to coffee, all with the goal of increasing profit from the sale of it. Now we have stores that exist and thrive based on the sale of coffee, when prior it was likely a highly unprofitable stand-alone business. That being said, I do indeed like a good clean cup of Hazelnut with Almond Milk, but the cost inflation, on top of normal inflation, coupled with the problem that many locations I visit may not have Hazelnut nor Almond Milk in stock, although profitable to the retailer, may prove to be quite frustrating to me.
The above is just an example of what I like to call a "Micro Frustration"... I understand the world does not exist to serve nor please me, and I understand that coffee is a good thing created by the hard work of many people, and when done correctly, coffee tastes great and also keeps me awake through mundane tasks, nonetheless, with an ever rising cost, I encounter new and increasing frustrations often in the process of seeking out gourmet coffee over the classic cheap cup of Joe. At times, not being able to get my coffee the exact way I like it, or for too high a price, I may choose to decline coffee altogether, and when that happens (on a massive scale) it can ruin a company.
Micro Frustrations are not insignificant, when you can manage to live life without any real frustration, life is good. While the super rich may have staff that can support their every want and desire without flaw, their quality of life may be considered good at the least. Other working schmucks like you and I don't live within luxurious means by any millionaire or billionaire's standards. There are frustrations we can't control because we live in an imperfect world of course, but when we couple the frustrations we can't control with additional frustrations in things that are intended to help us in life, the effects are devastating to our personal lives, and the frustrations manifest in many ways.
Take for instance with Social Media...
I used to leave app notices on (on my smartphone). They were great in letting me know when friends sent me messages or liked posts I made. Soon after the initial enchantment with notifications, I started receiving spam, which turned the art of receiving notices into a micro frustration for me. The problem got worse when I forgot to turn sound off on my phone before meetings. Notifications became an even bigger frustration when I received junk and fake notices from numerous apps on my phone that had no reason to send notices, like my calculator app, and from system services, and every time my phone connected to a USB cable or to bluetooth in my car. Sure there are a myriad of settings I could spend hours configuring to make it all work better every time there is an OS update, but that in itself is another frustration. With almost all notices currently turned off on my personal phone I personally experience more calm in my life, I find that I waste less time, and I can focus more on the important things I need to like my daily calendar and on calls from numbers that i haven't blocked yet...
I ultimately sacrificed hearing my phone ring altogether, and it's been in silent mode for over 4 years to reduce the frustration of the noises that I don't have time to stop and configure during my normally busy life. Now (unfortunately) I might miss a really important notice because of all of the spam notices I was inundated with, and it's a tragedy for that to happen on a device that I paid for with the intent of making my life better, less stressful, and easier. Even with the volume settings off completely within individual apps, some apps like Angry Birds play ads that override volume settings playing unexpectedly, I never click on those ads anyway... It has gotten to the point where some notices on my phone cannot be turned off, the phone I paid for. These notices are also not so important that I could not do without them by getting a much more simple (less smart) device, yet the ability to interact without surrendering my option of choice is also another source of frustration.
I have used certain platforms for many years and have had more failure than success in generating followings on them. Through running sites like this, where I control the promotion and where outreach is even across everyone who visits, I've had a lot more success in generating readership. The difference in running my own site is that it is not controlled by algorithms that limit or change what you see. You can make choices on what to read based on viewing all of the content or using search. On platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and even Reddit, we don't clearly get to see all content posted. Complex algorithms reduce exposure of posts in favor of paid promotions and in favor of popularity of posters. It's fair game on social media platforms when their algorithms are simple and transparent, but unfortunately that's not the way these platforms operate. For each new social platform, individual users need to jump through hoops and sacrifice hours just to develop a following. Growing a following often only grants users the ability to swim in the "ocean" of other users which more often than not proves to be futile work if a social media platform decides to cancel operations like Myspace and Vine did. This is when frustrations become costly, in hindsight, the sacrifices we make as content providers, as conscious objectors, as musicians and artists decide to stop using services completely because of frustration, it's a failure on many levels.
The growing dependence consumers have on devices, products, and platforms has a breaking point. One can simply choose to use a broom instead of a vacuum if the vacuum requires a user account and several other actions like continual/additional payments to operate. Despite the convenience that modernization can offer, if new technology creates new frustrations that overshadow their utility then users simply tend to opt out. I wrote about this in a prior article citing a "Giant Unplug" which is a very real threat to IT on many levels into the future if responsibility and integrity in innovation does not occur.
During the pandemic many businesses are closing, a live "production" test of business strength is occurring behind the scenes. Many businesses are failing this test and closing their doors. As struggling entrepreneurs are carefully evaluating their time expenditures, and evaluating cost (time and money) versus benefits (rewards and revenue), it becomes vital for every service and product related business to focus more on the traditional aspects of quality, function, utility, lower costs, etc. The primary aspect of differentiation and adding value to business in 2021 forward will also be to evaluate the Micro Frustrations encountered in your products and services for users. If you take user experience for granted, it can easily prove to be a straw that breaks your corporate camel's back.
Here's more detail about negative impacts of improper use of social media algorithms:
The main thing that will kill your business platform: Micro Frustrations
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