How the iPhone has changed the way we communicate

OPINION, TECHNOLOGY

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in the New York Women in Communications Aloud blog.

iphone

Since Steve Jobs unveiled the iPhone back on Jan. 9, 2007, one billion devices have been sold worldwide, revolutionizing the entire mobile phone industry. It’s not a stretch to say that the iPhone — which Jobs defined at its introduction as three devices in one, “a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone and a breakthrough internet communications device” with its many iterations over the years — has changed the world and fundamentally altered the way we communicate.

The iPhone has made employees more connected than ever. Email and calendars are easily accessed on-the-go, and push notifications ensure we never miss a message or an appointment. We’re hyper connected 24/7, responding faster than we ever have. Many people I know use their personal iPhone for business rather than have a separate work phone: The iPhone has blurred the line between work and personal life.

And then there’s texting. I’ve been texting since my preteen years but not texting in paragraph-long spurts the way I do now. Remember those QWERTY keyboards? And word limits? They made texting more of a novelty than a primary form of communication. In the fall of 2008, just one year after the iPhone hit the markets, Nielsen reported that texting increased by 450% from the same period in 2006. With the iPhone’s touchscreen and easy-to-use interface, texting has now become as natural as speaking.

The iPhone changed how we browse the Internet: We’re connected 24/7, either through WiFi or a cellular network. This means we are constantly consuming information and value being connected to the virtual world around us — but not necessarily the people around us. We’re scrolling through our phones at bars, at dinner, while walking or while riding the bus. Moments of down time are filled by looking at our phones, allowing for fewer personal interactions on the go.

The iPhone also fueled the rise of social media. Snapchat, of course, is mobile-only, Instagram is mobile-first and more than 90% of Facebook’s daily active users access the platform via mobile. We broadcast vacations and nights out by taking photos on our phones and instantly sharing them through an app. We check and post news in real time through Twitter. We share live video and funny moments we eventually want to disappear. The iPhone is an active participant in our lives and the catalyst behind most of our social interactions, real and digital.

I was a latecomer to the iPhone revolution. I bought my first iPhone in 2012, five years after its release, when I realized my Samsung “smart” phone was completely obsolete. But now I can’t imagine life without it. My iPhone is my calendar, my alarm clock, my camera, my calculator, my travel companion and my GPS system. It’s how I communicate with friends and family, find out the weather, jot down notes for stories, post to social media and pay for my coffee. My iPhone is where I get my news, my bus tickets, my restaurant recommendations and my music.

And sometimes — but rarely — my iPhone is just my phone.

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ARTIST SPOTLIGHT: Enoch Wu

CAREER, JOURNALISM, NEWS, PHOTOGRAPHY, TECHNOLOGY

Photo courtesy of Enoch Wu

Enoch and I met two summers ago while I was interning as a reporter for The Toledo Blade. He is a photojournalist for the nearby Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune, and we ended up on the same assignment out on an airport runway in Millbury, Ohio. I noticed he was holding an iPad (back then they still seemed pretty scarce!) so while waiting for our interviews and photo opportunities we began discussing technology and the future of journalism.

Enoch is a talented photographer who is also technologically savvy. He says his interest in technology goes back to childhood, when he was exposed to computers at an early age and “always had a sense to tinker [with] things and break things.” When he used a computer, Enoch said, he would dig into the software to see what he could change or manipulate. As a child, he even mischievously figured out how to subscribe to PCWorld Magazine and have it charged to his parents’ credit card. Today, his morning ritual includes keeping up-to-date with the industry by checking various photography and technology sites.

In addition to his work for the Sentinel-Tribune, Enoch shoots event photography for Toledo.com. He is also a freelance wedding and portrait photographer. For Enoch, whose primary passion was music before college, photojournalism is more than the act of capturing a moment with a camera.

It’s about telling a story through an image.

“Henri Cartier-Besson, the father of photojournalism said it the best: ‘Photography is nothing — it’s life that interests me,’” Enoch said.

Here are the highlights from my Q & A session with Enoch, including some of his work from the Sentinel-Tribune. And make sure to check out more of his photography at enochwu.net!

Copyright © 2012 Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune. All rights reserved.

SF: We’ve all heard the common expression, “A picture is worth a thousand words.”  To what extent do you agree with that? What do you think a photo can portray that a written story cannot?

EW: I tend to think that in today’s world, with technology and mobile phones, a picture has become a commodity and there is not enough emphasis put into making a photo worth a thousand words. The process is so instantaneous that people don’t think about how and what they are photographing—a proper photo is worth a thousand words. 

It’s hard for me to say what a photo can portray that a written story cannot. Both photos and stories can evoke emotion and thought; both can open doors to new ideas and take people to new worlds. I’d say the main difference is that in reading, people must imagine a scene and a moment, whereas with a photo, that information is provided in a condensed visual form and does not require as much imagination.

SF: Who are some interesting people you’ve gotten to photograph or work with through your job?

EW: Oh, there are so many interesting people with interesting stories. Perhaps too many. [Recently] I photographed a smart 10-year-old, deemed the youngest developer with an app in the Apple App Store. It was exciting for me to see such a young “geek” doing something cool. It was also exciting to associate a little one with technical jargon and to see the wonderful support of his father, who is an intellectual property lawyer. What a perfect team.

Copyright © 2012 Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune. All rights reserved.

SF: Dream subject to photograph?

EW: I don’t “dream” to shoot anyone since I believe that it’s about my subjects, I care more to hear their story and to photograph them the best way to tell their story. My subjects are on level ground, whether it is a three-year-old or the president of the United States.

But now that I think of it, it would be interesting to photograph Paypal/SpaceX/Tesla founder Elon Musk, or Jonathan Ive, the lead designer at Apple. There are musicians, too—it would be interesting to shoot Andrea Bocelli, the blind Italian classical artist, or Regina Spektor, Fiona Apple, or Björk, for that matter.

Copyright © 2012 Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune. All rights reserved.

SF: Clearly, the newspaper industry is in a state of rapid change, and must transform drastically to survive. If you had the power to revolutionize the industry, offering different forms of digital content, what would you do? 

EW: I would use my entrepreneurship knowledge to find a way to raise the bar for journalism once again, to bring long-form journalism back and to draw people to enjoy reading again. Some of us still love reading, but I have a sense that it can be made enjoyable for those who may not necessarily enjoy it at the moment, and for those who are glued to the television.

In my work, quality is key, and I stand firm in the matter that my work should speak for itself. Therefore, I would expect the same had I the power to “revolutionize” the industry.

Copyright © 2012 Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune. All rights reserved.

It’s more complicated than just digital content and pay walls. We need to reevaluate newspaper business models and practices that rely on a world when print journalism was at its peak. We need to bring the right people in—visionaries who are concerned about the future of editors, journalists, photojournalists and other newspaper staff rather than people [only] concerned primarily about monetary gains, finding Band-Aids to put off bankruptcy. We need to include people who look at the web seriously in all aspects: security, intellectual property, design and digital content, of course.

Solutions must be concrete, not half-baked ideas that fail. This is no time for failure as the jobs of so many great newspaper staffers are at risk. The medium of written journalism and the importance of reading are at stake, too. Written journalism is an imperative part of our future—our democracy and its success depend on it.

SF. What are your goals for the future?

EW: Right now I’m taking life as it goes—taking advantage of my full-time position at the paper and freelance jobs in Northwest Ohio, with the goal of building my ideal collection of gear and continuing to meet new people and create connections.

One of my personal goals is to return to music with a greater passion towards it. My standing long-term goal, lets say a period of five years, is to utilize my entrepreneurial sense to develop something that will secure my future as a photojournalist as well as the future of many other newspaper staffers. I’ve always wanted to run my own design firm too, but that is a tabled goal until the ones above come to fruition.

SF: Interesting fact about yourself?

EW: I secretly aspire to be Steve Jobs, to change the world…and photography is a cover.

*This interview was condensed and edited.

Header photo: Copyright © 2012 Bowling Green Sentinel-Tribune. All rights reserved.