A few weeks ago I had a very entertaining twitter conversation with Lane Severson, Ron Miller, Peter Monks and Laurence Hart on the topic of Google Glass. The discussion included an exchange on the social disengagement from people in the same room I believe it will inevitably create. As a parent I constantly struggle with the fact that I have not seen my fourteen year old’s eyes since he got an iPhone. All I see is the top of his head as he paws through instagram. I thought that at least with Google Glass he will look up once in a while. Then it hit me. Google Glass must have been invented as a reaction to male pattern baldness.
You may not have noticed that the Short Message Service (SMS) that set the standard for texting turned twenty last December and just like Justin Bieber it has probably peaked. The texting numbers are still strong with six billion texts per day in the US (a third of which are from my 14YO) but you have to add to that 200 million tweets, 40 million instagram posts and something like a quarter of a million status updates a minute on Facebook. (more fun facts like this here)
We now go beyond mere words and share pictures of really important things from our phones like lunchtime sushi artfully arranged to look like SpongeBob. The shift from text to pictures caused a problem for the engineers at Google. To take a picture they had to look up from their phones.
Sometime in the past the cool coders at Google looked down at their phones and started texting. Ten years later they look up to take a picture and horror of horrors – their hair is gone. First they notice the bald spots on their colleagues. Then somebody posts a picture of the Australia shaped birthmark on their scalp and all of the sudden reality sinks in.
Convincing themselves this is a usability rather than a sustainability problem they set out to discover a way to maintain geek chic with no hair and keep from loosing another decade to bad posture.
The first attempts to duct tape a Motorola Razor to 3D glasses they kept from the Avatar premier failed but they kept at it and here we are. We can now surf the web with our head held high and have the appearance of actually interacting with other IP’s.(Individual Persons)
I was first introduced to “wearable” computing a couple of decades ago. What slowed the progress then was the utter impracticality of the bulky device and the not so silly as it sounds concern that a technician might step off the wing of an aircraft. This time around though we run the risk of walking off the edge of relationships as we look past the person in front of us to an internet full of meaningless distraction.
But let’s be honest – I REALLY want one of these things and so do you. If it is inevitable then there is a right and wrong way to integrate it into our daily lives. This is important because the idea that you can wink to take a picture gets more creepy the older you are.
We will need new rules for GoogleGlass etiquette so lets start with places not to wear them. For example NEVER wear them in any public restroom – do I need to emphasize the winking thing here? Another, it is probably going to be considered inappropriate to wear them during your wedding. Before you argue that it will look cool may I refer you to every wedding picture taken in the 1970’s – cool is rarely timeless in fashion. At any rate – just like using the phone – you have the power at least for now NOT to use them.
As a parent I have to acknowledge the fact that I also have the power to get the phone away from my kids, although if I wait much longer it may require surgery. I have the responsibility not just for my children but also for everyone I work with to model good tech behavior. For more on this idea, Lane tweeted a link to a great piece on appropriately embracing technology by Al Cedeno.
Too often we fail to see that our kids problems are really reflections of our own bad choices. For this and really all tech I suggest you have etiquette rules that make sense for you keeping in mind that the most important person for right now is probably the one in the room with you. They deserve the respect they get from your full attention.
And lastly I implore you, don’t wear them at the dinner table. At the end even Darth Vader wanted to see his son with his own eyes.