Building on last week, I want to delve into something in a bit more detail. I mentioned how technology is changing the way we interact with the world around us and reshaping our relationships. But how? Is this bad? What can we do about it?

Let me start with the first question – the how. Technology and social media has created a world that is more connected than ever before, while simultaneously creating a society of humans more disconnected from one another than ever before. Historically, disconnection in the human population has been the product of geographical distance or maybe language. Now, the technology that has brought us closer as a species has created a new kind of divide. The kind that has us hunched over our phones at the dinner table unable to keep a conversation with our loved ones or glued to our screens while we cross the street instead of sharing a smile of a “hello” with a passerby.

All of this adds up to a pretty lonely existence where our virtual lives appear rich with activity but our lived experience is virtually empty.

I think the statement above answers that second question. While there’s undoubtedly a positive side to being able to quickly text a grocery list or fire off a heart or smile emoji to let someone know you are thinking of them. The negative impacts of unbridled use of digital communication in all areas of our lives creates a huge hole where human connection used to be.

This hole impacts our relationships at home, with family and friends, and at work, with our peers and professional colleagues. This is what I want to talk about today. How we can mitigate some of these impacts and how to use digital technology for maximum benefit and to augment our face-to-face experiences to create relationships with intention.

Psychologist, Sherry Turkle, argues that the diminishing capacity for conversation is beginning to impact our ability for self reflection and that this is going to have dire consequences for generations growing up with texting and social media interactions as the norm. It will result in fragmented life experiences, or as she puts it “I share therefore I am”. Which speaks to how we have come to define ourselves through social media posts we send out into the ether as opposed to the quality of our relationships and face-to-face interactions.

But, how do you build trust in your relationships through a series of social media posts? Bottom line is, you don’t. In-person conversations offer something that Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, email, Slack, Tinder and the like can’t and never will.

Which brings me to the third question – what can you do about it? Here’s three things you can do to up your personal communication game, and reasons why they are important:

  • Build trust – online magazines like Entrepreneur and Forbes among many others list all of the reasons why face-to-face meetings are important for building your network and your business. As social animals, we naturally come to trust people though our personal experiences with them. No video conference or virtual meeting room technology will ever be able to replace the importance of in-person experiences in building trust.
  • Better communication builds better relationships – up to 93 per cent of all communication comes from nonverbal cues found in the nuances of tone of voice and body language. While our brain is taking in the words we hear, we are also digesting a plethora of information through what we see. Gestures, facial expressions and body positioning are all critical components of nonverbal communication and all of these are nonexistent in digital communication. I think we’ve all received an email or text that was taken the wrong way as it arrived to us without any context or tone.
  • Increased productivity and creativity – in-person meetings allow for concise conversation, turning a 30 email chain which breaks up your day every time you receive a reply, into a 2 minute conversation–done. Conversations also create a natural energy and can spark ideas you might not otherwise come up with as you sit alone at your desk staring at your email….that picture doesn’t really scream innovation does it?

This is just a quick snapshot of why in-person conversations trump digital communication. If you’ve moved far, far away from personal communication, conversations are likely to feel a little clunky and awkward as you start out, but it will be worth it–trust me.

Make space for communication at home and at work by putting the cell phones down at dinner and at meetings and you will see the quality of your lived experience improve immensely.

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