While embracing digital technologies in day to day communication, are we moving away from human touch points? We text rather than talk. We are so connected, yet so lonely than ever before. This document briefs my encounters with the digital methods of communication in last one decade and how I have learned over time. Some of these things might sound very obvious and common sense, but I have seen too many people missing out on this cornerstone of human life which is ‘conversations’. We are all hiding behind our devices. It’s high time we make ‘spaces’ for f2f and interruption free conversations.
The best of technology companies are working towards to find ‘better’ ways to connect people. We already have thousands of tools like the Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter, Google plus, Instagram, Snapchat, Linkedin, Slack and more. But the irony is, with the advent of these seemingly ‘connecting tools’ we are getting more and more ‘disconnected’. We are so much obsessed with digitally connecting devices and tools that we are losing the core art of humans: The art of conversations. Face to face conversations are increasingly getting replaced with virtual methods. The facial expressions, body language and tone are losing their essence in this virtually connected era.
During a birthday, a new year, or any other occasion, one is flooded with ‘copy-pasted’ messages. Many send a message to show their participation. But while doing all this, one is losing an opportunity to meet a person and slowly losing a human connection. The social interactions with a co-passenger, a roadside vendor, a cashier etc are all dying down and becoming virtually dependent upon a device. The new generations might find it tough to handle real social situations as they would hardly have confronted such social situations nor would they know how to deal with them.
Messages in a digital world are sent instantly and more reactive rather than thoughtful. Once sent, there is no way of taking it back. A person while exchanging digital dialogues, may not know the state of mind or insights about the other person whom its sent. Hence its quite tough to determine whether the message is taken in good or bad spirits. Many times, people say things digitally in haste which they generally would not say in person. And one can easily manipulate digital discussions using smart techniques leading to bitter misunderstandings. The very intrusive nature of ‘always on’ digital devices leads to stress and boundary-less communication patterns which are not good. The work life and personal lives are blurred due to such digital communications. One should be aware that Digital life is an edited version of life. While doing this constant ‘editing’ in digital life one might be at a huge loss at the ‘real’ life.
A lot of problems in the world would disappear if we talk to each other more face to face. Today, while in the office or home or travel, we text on devices more than we speak to humans. And when we do talk face to face, we’re often scanning our phones or other devices. We are hardly present in full capacity. We are less present with ourselves. And this vicious cycle continues.
During my school or college days, mobile devices hardly existed. I never used one till my first job. My interactions with friends, co-workers and family was more f2f or may be through calls. With smartphones, we are constantly on. I started using chats and emails to communicate more often than before to bring speed in communication and reduce the fear of missing out ‘critical’ task or information. This was working but at the same time, it was increasing my own stress and stress of others. Slowly I realized that it’s not only me but many others are going through similar situations. Most of the things can be solved much easier if there is effective face to face communication. With these insights and advice, I started doing more face to face which I used to do in my life pre-smartphone era. I have seen much better results and outcomes in face to face discussions vs digital. Especially in a society like India which is built on the foundations of relationships, it’s even more practical to have in-person discussions as far as possible. Face to face is like getting the thing done. Whether it is about sales or hiring or relations or occasions, a face to face dialogue can bring far better outcomes compared to digital interactions. What might look so impossible might be an easy sail in a face to face dialogue.
The idea of my writing is neither anti-technology nor is it to say that one should abandon digital life or devices. My message is that can we reduce this digital and device dependence, can we bring some old flavors of human conversations, the social laughter, and mindfulness? Let’s start the new year 2017 with better communication with a human touch.
This new year, save your time in sending those wishes to thousands on social media or Whatsapp. Instead, spend that time in person with someone you want to. You will feel much more happy, connected and fulfilled. So next time, whenever & wherever possible, do try an F2F. Unplug and Disconnect to reconnect. I am doing this, and its working so well.
Manoj Agarwal is one of the co-founders of Giftxoxo & Frogo. This article was written with his insights while working in his company and interacting with co-workers. He also recommends people to read Sherry Turkle who has written fantastically on these topics.