Too Much Mobile Connectivity Taking Fans (and Employees) Out of the Game
"Kaepernick drops back to throw. Oh, what an amazing move to avoid the sack! He's looking deep. Touchdown! Crabtree with an incredible diving catch! And the crowd... appear to be quietly staring down at their smartphones?"
Perhaps we haven't quite reached this type of scenario in reality. However, many sports teams that have built technically impressive stadiums with high levels of mobile connectivity are reporting that crowds have become less engaged and supportive than they were in the past. To me, this seems to be an obvious effect of making it easy for fans to connect to online content, social networks and fantasy leagues while attending games. After all, how can you watch a live game while you're staring down at your smartphone?
Undoubtedly, these cutting-edge arenas, such as the San Francisco 49ers new Levi's Stadium, are technological works of genius. As a network guy, I can't help but marvel at how they can make it possible for 60,000 fans to connect to high-speed wireless networks, utilise stadium services and in some cases enjoy a better mobile experience than they do elsewhere.
But I'm starting to wonder if some of these teams are regretting such enhancements. Sure, I can see the arguments. "We have to stay on the cutting-edge. Millenials are the future fan base and they need these mobile capabilities. People want to be checking their fantasy stats all the time, even at the game." I agree - these are all true. However, it is also true that, when it comes to winning, home field advantage is often decisive, especially in football. One has to wonder if the Seattle Seahawks would be the defending Super Bowl champions if their vaunted '12th man' were tweeting about the game rather than cheering for it.
The problem is largely a cultural one, and it isn't just millenials. Too many of us have become accustomed to checking what's going on in our networks and social connections constantly, and can't stand a second of delay. In fact, it's probably happening all around you as you read this article.
How many times do you have an office meeting where everyone brings a phone, laptop, tablet or all of the above? I know this has happened to me. I'm paying attention in a meeting and then, "Oh hey, what's this message? I'll just take a second to read this.... What? What do I think about the process you just outlined? Ummm..." Claiming that this hasn't happened to you, well, your ability to say that with a straight face means that you may be qualified to be commissioner of a major sports league.
This situation may seem strange, but this negatively impacts your organisation's productivity. We all joke about meetings, but meetings are often required for serious work and planning to be realised. If people aren't paying attention, that's wasted time and money.
Fortunately, the solution is a simple one. Now I'm not going to argue for some luddite, throw all technology away and head to the woods for a month nonsense. But let's be realistic, 99% of everything that comes through email, messaging or social networks can wait an hour. Those messages that you're wasting a meeting to answer could have waited until the meeting was over.
The same is true at sporting events. Come on, these games are really expensive nowadays. You should embrace and enjoy every minute of the action. For sports fans, here's my suggestion: watch the game you've paid money to be at. When your team scores, jump up and scream, high-five other fans in your section, cheer the team on, do all that fun stuff which is the main reason to be at a game rather than watching it in front of the TV. And the best thing is, seconds after you do all this, they're going to a commercial break. You'll have plenty of time to watch a replay, boast on social networks and share a photo of yourself in the crowd.
In the end, these devices and apps are tools. They give us great capabilities and can be great fun, but there's plenty of time to use them and still keep your head in the game (in sports, or in the office).