The impact of digitization on the way we communicate has been so large that it has changed our models of social interaction. It becomes necessary to adapt to the evolution of languages.
According to Elisa Maria Entschew, expert in economic ethics and digitalization, the spread of digital channels has transformed the very nature of communication, leading to a “structural change in our social life, especially in the workplace“.
This is a phenomenon that is often accompanied by the advent of new technologies. As early as the nineteenth century, an article in the Scientific American journal claimed that those were “the most complex and fastest-changing times ever. The pace of technological innovation is challenging the way we operate like never before “. The most noticeable change concerns the speed of communication.
Entschew explains that the unprecedented acceleration of digital systems is leading to a paradox: the application of technology to speed up the exchange of information would have the main objective of freeing up time for people but in reality it produces its exact opposite.
According to a Eurofund survey, the ratio that workers in EU28 have over time has not changed significantly from 2005 to 2015. Over 40% of managers feel they work under pressure and one in ten workers – regardless of gender – says they do not have never (or rarely) time to perform his duties.
This result derives from a phenomenon called “Rebound effect”: the simplification of communication generates an increase in the exchange of information which consumes more time than it saves.
A common assumption among business leaders is that the speed achieved by technology brings significant productivity gains. “The statement, however, overlooks an intrinsic problem – warns Entschew – namely that these same technologies trigger a cycle that feeds itself and becomes difficult to stop”.
Technological acceleration, for example, has introduced new social norms that also provide for faster response times and more channels to manage. This translates into an increase in messages and an almost continuous flow of stimuli to which one is forced to respond. It has been calculated that an employee checks his mailbox 30 times an hour and that an average user picks up his smartphone 1,500 times a week.
The goldfish problem
The frenzy and fragmentation of communication necessarily pose a problem of concentration.
According to research carried out by Microsoft, the average duration of human attention is now shorter than that of a goldfish.
Thanks to an interview with 2,000 participants and the analysis of the brain activity of another hundred, a team of Canadian scientists found that the average duration of human attention has dropped from 12 seconds in 2000 to 8 seconds today, one second. less than a goldfish.
In that flash it is necessary to capture the reader’s attention, convey the most important concepts – which in the health sector can be extremely complex – and involve him so that he continues to follow the discussion, possibly until the end.
In this context, one of the main difficulties is to establish contact so that information is transmitted successfully. It is the primary responsibility of whoever sends a message: without connection there is no communication and if the right conditions do not exist, it is useless to transmit anything. It is an obvious concept when it comes to telephone networks, it is less obvious – but equally valid – in the case of communication strategies on social media.
A quarter of an hour of fame
The use of visual elements such as images, infographics, videos is necessary but not sufficient: for each context – and for each message – a specific solution must be identified, which includes the right mix of languages and channels, and an adequate timing.
It must also be taken into account that the periods of interest for a given topic are progressively reducing. According to a study published in Nature Communications, the expansion of the production and consumption of content leads to ever shorter attention spans.
“As the flow increases – the researchers explain – individual topics are disseminated much more rapidly leading to a steeper increase in collective attention and an early saturation [of interest] which in turn leads to an equally steep fall” .
This phenomenon translates into a higher turnover rate among popular topics, reducing the time available to communicators to address the topics of their interest.
According to Ágnes Veszelszki, associate professor of communication and Hungarian linguistics at the Corvinus University in Budapest, this situation is destined to worsen due to the influence of instant messaging. This channel is characterized by sudden jumps in the topics addressed and “to keep their attention, participants do not press ‘Enter’ only when they have finished a thought or a speech, but also after smaller pieces”.
Digilect and neologisms
The rapidity of the exchange of information has inevitably led to an extreme simplification of the language used.
Veszelszki argues that digital media has created a new type of language that is also contaminating the way we express ourselves on a daily basis. According to the expert, this new language, for which she coined the term “digilect“, is strongly influenced by oral communication: it resembles dialogue, is less structured than the traditional written text and has less rigid spelling and grammar rules.
This leads to a general simplification of the language and the adoption – not only among young people – of spelling variants such as “netologisms” (neologisms derived directly from the use of digital media, such as the verb “to googl”) or combinations of symbols that play an emoticon (e.g. for the smiley).
“Planned communication is no longer considered ideal, not even in literature,” notes Veszelszki, as evidenced by the birth of the mobile novel, a particularly popular literary format in Japan and China, made up of short chapters sent to subscribers via e-mail or SMS .
The phenomenon of simplification does not spare even the language of images. Speaking at a round table on communication in the health sector organized by Makinglife together with Deloitte Italia, Mario Addis, animator and designer (as well as author of the covers and graphic novels of this magazine) underlined that the daily use of stereotyped elements, such as icons and emojis, is reducing the interpretative ability of users, enclosing the range of emotions in a limited number of elementary categories.
The challenge therefore consists in combining these simplified elements to express more complex emotional situations and convey technical and elaborate messages. A paradoxically complicated situation. Building articulate speeches with simple elements is like working with Lego: impressive results can be obtained but planning, study, preparation are needed. It is a high aptitude for experimenting.
How is it possible to create a connection with users who have little time, even less attention and continuously receive stimuli and requests? The answer lies in the ability of the communicator to create a relationship with the interlocutor.
According to Gianluigi Bonanomi, trainer on digital communication issues, communication cannot be an end in itself but must be aimed at building relationships. The key is the emotional component, which must bind the speaker and the listener and must be based on the sharing of interests and values.
The sense of communication on social media, for example, is not to produce likes or comments but to position oneself, make oneself interesting for interlocutors and create the basis for generating lasting relationships. It becomes essential to calibrate communication to involve the greatest number of people with a common interest in an open discussion, in order to create a network and build an environment of mutual exchange.
As Valeria Brambilla, Partner Italian Life sciences and Healthcare leader of Deloitte Italia states, the relationship between companies and customers can no longer be based on the product, however valid it may be, or on a momentary emotional impulse. It is essential that those who buy recognize their values in the seller, that they share their approach and above all that they trust. Trust is the aspect that more than any other binds customer and company and in this communication plays a predominant role.
To achieve these results, however, it is necessary to listen carefully to the interlocutors, to understand what their real needs are. “From this point of view, an ineffective approach by companies is still widespread – warns Bonanomi – which often still prefer a type of self-referential, ego-related communication, based on the promotion of their characteristics and qualities rather than on the creation of a discussion environment. common with its stakeholders, communities in which participants spontaneously become brand ambassadors “.
In the pharmaceutical field, communication freedom is obviously reduced by regulatory limits but there are still many possibilities to transmit information and messages to one’s stakeholders. In highly regulated sectors such as the pharma sector, communication objectives are shifting from direct business generation to increasing brand value: the message focuses on corporate values, the quality of the work environment, awareness of a disease or a therapeutic method etc.
When implemented effectively, this strategy generates enterprise value, a value that is generally maintained over the long term.
The word to the Robot
A vaguely disturbing aspect, at least for those who carry out my work, concerns the possibility that in the future artificial intelligence will replace journalists in the production of articles.
Futuristic? Not too much.
It has been estimated that in 2025 half of communication on social networks (including corporate ones) will be prepared by artificial intelligence systems, which are already widely used to quickly create standard texts such as product sheets, company descriptions, advertising, but also posts for social media and proposals. by copy. We could not fail to test this possibility and we entrusted the continuation of this text to one of these algorithms which immediately tried to reassure us. Here is what it produced:
“AI writers are not replacing writers. They assist content authors by eliminating writer’s block and generating ideas for content at scale. There are many use cases for AI writing tools in the future of copywriting, including: write articles for different topics or niche genres, write blogs and news about health issues, provide support for the production of long-lasting pieces such as books and research papers.
Artificial intelligence will help us in the future with in-depth analysis for health-related articles and research through big-data processing. It will provide a better understanding of the diseases we are dealing with, which will lead to more effective treatments and cures in the future. Artificial intelligence-generated health articles are a new way to help medical professionals make themselves understood by patients.
Articles on health generated by artificial intelligence can be used as a reference for doctors and nurses at the forefront of care.
There are many benefits to AI-generated health articles, but there are also some drawbacks. One of the benefits is that it’s an easy way to generate content without having to spend hours searching for data and sources. There are also some associated risks, such as the possibility that the article is not taken seriously by medical professionals because it was generated by an algorithm rather than written by a human professional “.
Certainly our robot will not win the Pulitzer or a literary prize but it is certainly the fastest author in the editorial office: to prepare this text – which passes the anti-plagiarism checks with the highest score – it took less than half a minute.