“All Thumbs” Has Taken on New Meaning

For generations the term “all thumbs” has generally insinuated someone who is physically awkward or clumsy, lacking skill or grace, especially with respect to the hands. While the term has always inferred a certain lack of coordination, it has taken on new meaning in the new age of technology, especially in reference to the use of hand-held smartphones. Given the relatively diminutive size of smartphone keyboards, it is absolutely astounding and perplexing to watch the skill and dexterity by which so many today are able to manipulate the devices and deliver messages with just these digits.

The thumb, unlike other fingers, is opposable. It is the only digit on the human hand that is able to oppose or turn back against the other four fingers and thus enables the hand to refine its grip to hold objects that it would be unable to do otherwise. The opposable thumb has helped the human species develop more accurate fine motor skills. Can you image trying to zip a zipper, button a shirt, open a jar, or tie a shoe without your thumbs? In fact, most scientists hypothesize that by enabling fine motor skills, the thumb has in many ways helped to promote the development of the human brain.

In many ways, smartphones and other mobile devices have become another appendage that may very likely influence human evolution as we move forward. We are changing our personal and professional habits in direct response to these tools, and it’s transforming the world.

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Bookmarking the Present

The knowledge and information of human and global history is literally at our fingertips, along with the rhetoric of the masses as they share their thoughts, ideas, and opinions on everything from world peace to pizza. We can use our smartphones to communicate in any number of ways using words, voices, and vision to express and articulate our message to someone in another room or another country. We can take photos and videos, read a story, get directions, buy merchandise, organize our schedules, and manage our loss prevention programs with the touch of a screen and the slide of a finger. We can even use our phones to monitor our heartbeats or our sleep patterns.

By the same respect, the grip that loss prevention professionals have on their smartphones is changing the way that we interact and communicate. While attending the latest industry conferences and watching the attendees maneuver through the sessions, exposition halls, and other events with their phones in hand, the influence that mobile devices have had on our profession was quite apparent.

Conference apps help us navigate through the conference events. Smartphones allow us more freedom to multitask, taking messages, making phone calls, sharing information, and managing ongoing responsibilities from the conference floor. In many ways, these events bookmark the industry from year to year, and it’s a much different world than it was just a few short years ago. So much has changed, and it’s only just the beginning.

The same holds true for those throughout the industry as loss prevention professionals continue to work through their daily responsibilities. Advancements in loss prevention technology are compounding the value of these devices on almost a daily basis, with endless possibilities to the ways that they can be used to monitor, review, report, investigate, and manage the loss prevention function.

The tools of technology have become the norm, expanding our reach and reshaping how we approach the business in ways that we never saw coming. And as millennials continue to forge their place in a new age of loss prevention, these current trends will only continue to escalate, establishing a new standard that will lead to more original and innovative possibilities.

Growing Pains

No matter how progressive or amazing these innovations might prove to be, there is still a period of adjustment that takes place as we respond to the changes and accept a new way of approaching the world. And as we adjust, we are going to make mistakes.

An obvious example involves the dangers of texting and driving. Those using a mobile phone while driving are four times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accident, and current statistics indicate that nine Americans are killed every day as the result of distracted driving such as texting or using a mobile device.

But there are other health concerns. Recent studies indicate that those age 18 to 24 send and receive almost 4,000 texts per month on average, and many of those who are frequently hunched over their mobile devices are experiencing headaches, neck pain, and shoulder pain in rapidly growing numbers.

“Text neck” is the term coined to describe pain that manifests from the curved posture created by extensive use of a mobile device. An adult head weighs ten to twelve pounds in a neutral position, but by tilting it forward, the force it exerts on the neck can surge—up to sixty pounds when the head is tilted by sixty degrees. Medical reports indicate that this may lead to early wear, tear, and degeneration of the vertebrae in the neck as a result.

Missed Opportunity

Social interaction is also impacted in different ways. For example, when five or six people are standing together, none of them are talking to each other, and all of them have their eyes glued to their smartphones, we can conclude that the world is changing; or when someone takes—and remains—on a phone call when they are in the middle of a discussion with someone standing right in front of them; or when someone regularly texts a friend, coworker, or family member in the next room rather than making the effort to stand up and walk to speak with them. When someone pretends to be on a phone call or will only send emails or text messages to avoid talking to others, we know we’ve had a shift in our paradigm.

There are those walking into traffic or off a cliff because they have their heads buried in their phones. In one recent story, video captured a man sitting on a boat so focused on his smartphone that he never noticed a whale jumping out of the water right behind him.

As these new devices are being introduced, the rules are changing, and new habits are being formed. Some are easy fixes, like practicing better manners or learning to better manage posture so that we don’t injure ourselves. Other lessons may only be learned through the school of hard knocks. But each of us needs to remain aware of how the technology is altering our lives and our habits to minimize the pain and maximize the value.

Rule of Thumb

Digital Dialogue was founded as a direct result of how we interact with the world of technology and digital communication. Smartphones and similar mobile devices are revolutionizing retail, the loss prevention industry, and the way that we are able to bring information to you. This is a time of tremendous opportunity and an exciting time to be part of a dynamic and evolving industry.

But as a rule of thumb, we have to respect the power of these devices as much as we enjoy the benefits that they bring. We have to remain aware of the different ways that they are influencing our habits as well as the ways that they are improving our lives. We have to make sure that we continue to manage the devices, rather than allowing them to manage us.

We’ve all heard the expression, “You can either jump on board, or get left behind.” The answer to that has always been pretty simple—no one wants to be left behind. But when we make the jump, it’s still a wise decision to minimize the bumps and bruises that we get along the way.

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