Learning to Speak Tech-Talk: A Digital Dictionary for the New Year

I always wish a spoke another language. As I kid, I was proficient in Pig Latin (or igpay atinlay for those in the know). And I can get by in Spanish--enough to order dinner at a Mexican café or tapas at my local Spanish restaurante. But that's about the extent of my fluency.

While it may be too late for me, my husband and I recently decided that we wanted our 11-year old son Daniel to have the opportunities we didn't, so we enrolled him at the American School of Madrid starting this month. It has already been an incredible cultural experience, and given the global nature of work these days, knowing another language will be hugely beneficial in the future. Plus, Daniel is a huge Real Madrid soccer fan! So it's a win-win.


Daniel on his first day in Madrid

As I have been preparing for this big trip and the transition to being separated from Daniel I have been thinking, first of all, about how I have never been so grateful for Facetime and the ability to email and text. I will surely be taking full advantage of both on a daily basis. Also, apps like Duolingo have been helpful tools for our whole family to start practicing our Spanish.

And as I have been thinking about this whole language business, it occurred to me that my research and consulting on the human workplace has actually taught me a new language. As we know, technology has completely transformed the way we work and live. But we also have a new language to talk about it all. And just as learning another language can make someone a strong global citizen, learning this new language of technology will make us strong digital citizens.

So I put together this Digital Dictionary. It is hardly exhaustive, but it's a start!

Continuous Partial Attention: This is how many of us use our attention today. To pay continuous partial attention is to pay partial attention--continuously. We do this in order to effectively scan for opportunity and optimize for the best opportunities, activities, and contacts, in any given moment. We do this because we mistakenly believe that to be busy, to be connected, is to be alive, to be recognized, and to matter. And we never give our full attention to anything.

FOMO (Fear of Missing Out): Another reason we pay continuous partial attention is in an effort not to miss anything. It is this always on--anywhere, anytime, anyplace--behavior that creates an artificial sense of constant crisis. We are always in high alert when we pay continuous partial attention.

Nomophobia: This is the name for the phobia (intense, irrational fear) of being out of mobile phone contact. Another word for this is smartphone separation anxiety.

Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD): An unhealthy preoccupation with all things internet, which causes neurological complications, psychological disturbances, and social problems. In the United States and Europe, this problem affects up to 8.2% of the population.

I-Phone Effect: The fact that, based on a recent study, people who talk to each other with a mobile device present reported lower levels of empathy. This is especially true when the phone is present between people with a significant connection.

Phubbing: Snubbing someone in favor of your mobile phone. We've all done it: When we lose interest, the urge to check out a twitter/ Facebook/ Youtube/ Pinterest/whatever feed can be overwhelming. This is phubbing.

STexting (Strategic Texting): Is strategic texting possible? Done well, text messages can be good for business. Why? For starters, the texting open rate is 97% vs. email which is 20%. And a third of all professionals can't wait longer than ten minutes to respond to a text. So if you can be respectful, and you have an urgent message, texting can be the way to go.

Telepressure: According to Larissa K. Barber and Alecia M. Santuzzi, professors at Northern Illinois University, and the authors of a study published this year in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, telepressure is, "the combination of the preoccupation and urge to immediately respond to work-related email messages."

While we probably won't be enrolling in tech-speak immersion or study abroad programs any time soon, it is important for us to be aware of this new digital language, as it impacts all of us. A digital dictionary is a great way for us to continue to develop our awareness of the impact of technology on our lives: the good, the bad and the ugly. The global community needs good digital citizens.

And, for Daniel...My hope for him is that becomes proficient in Spanish, attends some great soccer (or, rather futbol) games, but more importantly that he makes connections and builds relationships that will last a lifetime.


Daniel with his brand new amigo, Mateo