Our network of friends and family is at our fingertips nearly every minute of the day through texting, emailing, and instant messaging … the list goes on. So, why are we having a harder time truly connecting with people? In a PBS documentary, “Growing Up Online,” it was stated that “90 percent of American Teens are online.” The part that I found disturbing was that they considered chatting with their friends on Facebook the same thing as hanging out at the mall. Let me clarify, it is NOT.
Unfortunately, this trend is growing and spreading to older generations as well. Facebook cities that the fastest growing group of users are thirty-five years old or older. I’m not trying to say that it is a bad thing to be on Facebook and “chat” with friends online. I think it is great and have meet many of my old friends and keep in contact with them now through the site.
But the fact is that human beings need personal contact to remind them that they are human. Why is it so different to yell at the sales clerk over the phone then in person. Because what you don’t see you don’t have to react too. You don’t see that person fully as a human. How is it so easy to call someone a name in an email and not over the phone. Because people are less human when all you see and hear are black and white letters. We are more then this.
It may be a work meeting that is an actual sit down, face to face version, verses teleconferencing or an online version. It may mean skipping your favorite television show to go visit grandma at home instead of just calling her on your cellphone on your drive home from work. Try anything to bring more personal communication back into your life. Here are five easy ways you to start, but don’t stop here. Keep going until you are filled with the love and compassion of being human again.
1. Instead of emailing your co-worker about something that needs clarification, get up from your desk and go ask them. While you may think it is faster to send the email, it can also be proven that face to face communication provides the most feedback without confusing the message. In other words, you’ll be able to get the right information you need and complete the project instead of wasting all day emailing back and forth because you still don’t understand.
2. Look people in the eyes and open your availability to them. Remove the headphones to your ipod, especially if you are working with others. Closing yourself off to the people around you by listening to music, talking on your cellphone constantly, reading, or surfing the internet puts you on the fast track to being ignored. If that is what you want, that’s fine, but you might find the man who sits on the bus next to you everyday is a manager looking to hire.
3. The art of the letter … so, so long forgotten. Sure you still aren’t in close physical contact, but the letter or card is more personal than an email. It shows that the person means something to you if you are willing to pick out the right paper and write the letter. It’s not just a boring email that you quick typed while you were bored at work. Plus it still gives them something to hold.
4. Unplug yourself and your family for just a little bit everyday or at least every week to allow time to reconnect with each other. A conversation is very different over a walk together in the park then over the nightly news and checking your email. You will find that with all the other noise clutter gone, it is so much easier to pay attention and really listen to what they are saying.
5. That friend you’ve been “chatting” with online? Call them up for or go visit them. Catch up in person and remember the good times you had. Hear the sound of their voice and listen to the smile that fills there words and let yours do the same. There is no need for the colon/parenthesis smiley face in real personal communication.