The new social order: A, B, C, D...
Turn back the clock with me:
You're in third grade. Your class is lining up to head out to lunch, or to recess, or to the library to pick out a book. Waiting is excruciating, and places in line are all-important. Then your teacher tells you all not to shove, that the order will be...alphabetical.
If your name is Aaron, chances are that memory can still bring up a rosy glow of entitlement. If you're a Zoe, you may still feel a bitter pang of resentment at the injustice of alphabet tyranny. But it's all just a memory, right? As the grade school years fade away behind us, we enter a world that's overwhelmingly first-come, first-served. When was the last time you lined up by name, with perks awarded to the alphabetical elite?
I'll tell you when: the last time somebody called you from a cell phone.
Today, most of us walk around with an alphabetized social register in our pockets. Depending on your lifestyle, your register may number a dozen names or a thousand. It may be subdivided into personal and business, or home and school. It may be grouped by letter, or even by name. (An executive with a huge contact list recently complained to me about how long it takes to scroll through the "Michael" section of his PDA.) But whatever the format, you probably find that certain names pass before your eyes again and again out of alphabetical happenstance.
Think about the potential significance of that kind of "personal product placement." In the social realm, what's the chance you'll forget to call a friend whose name is in front of you several times a day? If that friend gets similar prime placement on other friends' phones, it could lead to a real bump up in his social life. When it comes to business contacts, the right name could translate to closer client relationships, more active networking, and fresh opportunities -- the principles of old-fashioned Yellow Pages placement applied to your own first name.
Suddenly, an Aaron Abbott's old lineup advantage looks bigger than ever. At least until the next communications revolution.