Have you even been engaged in deep conversation with a friend when their cell phone rang and you were “put on hold?” Or, perhaps you were in the midst of an important business discussion when a text was received and you were “cut off” in mid-sentence? I’ll bet that didn’t feel good!
How can we balance the extraordinary advances and benefits of digital technology in our lives without sacrificing the irreplaceable and powerful rewards of in-person human interaction and conversation?
Not being a slave to digital technology is one way! Each individual deserves your full attention. For all its significant benefits, it is important not to let technology own you. Cell phones especially can:
- Distract attention and diminish the quality of conversation.
- Lack the spontaneity of real-time, in-person conversations.
- Diminish the quality, connection and commitment of each conversation.
- Enable us to “hide” from each other by avoiding a person, a problem or a situation.
- Preclude substantive discussions.
- Pressure us to always be connected or available to others.
- Enable people to seemingly be connected but, in reality, they are “alone.”
We all have experienced unpleasant, rude behavior by people on their cell phones. Talking loudly in public. Making or answering calls or texts during conversations or meals. Holding up lines while on the phone. I’m sure you have your own stories.
While spotlighting a few challenges inherent with digital technology, I acknowledge and appreciate the convenience of mobile phones, texting and emails in our lives. A few ways include:
- Managing logistics and plans easily and quickly.
- Leaving messages from anywhere, at any time.
- Sending a virtual “high-five” or an encouraging message.
- Finding directions and information while on the move, but not while driving.
- Uniting us easily and quickly with simple messages and answers.
- Getting simple answers and help fast.
Since we live with great technological advances, it’s important that we understand how to utilize all of the benefits. However, it’s critical to acknowledge how our human interaction and productivity can be negatively impacted. It does require a conscious effort to balance the help and intrusions of digital technology, and the choice is yours to make!
Business gets done by people’s productivity, commitment and relationships, often facilitated by technology. Scheduling meetings. Handling emergencies. Conference calls. However, digital devices often interrupt and distract the real-time, in-person collaboration and engagement needed for having quality conversations and building trust.
Without face-to-face communication, genuine connection, shared experience and spontaneous chats, we lack the substantive conversations that help us learn and clarify our thinking. In-person conversation is an important way of being with each other and includes rich non-verbal messages that build trust, connection, productivity, creativity and understanding.
Our need for human contact is essential and digital technology can foster superficial connectivity, alienation and isolation in a virtual world. Technology will not improve the quality of our lives if we cannot successfully navigate being bombarded with data and disconnected from one another. As we expect more from digital technology, we must guard against expecting less from each other.