Are We Over-Relying on Technology for Interpersonal Communications?

Anybody who has ever observed people–usually, but not always, teenagers–standing together, yet communicating via text messaging can recognize that sometimes technology is overused. Whether email, social media, texting or the use of mobile devices, the downfall of these practices is to minimize face-to-face or voice-to-voice contact which can be a definite drawback. In business settings, studies consistently indicate that the most effective communication is face-to-face. Certainly we can’t always achieve that, but the goal is to approximate it whenever possible (so, tools like videoconferencing, webinars, etc. are often used by very large organizations).

That said, there are also great benefits to the use of technology in communications–most notably that the availability of these tools has allowed us to expand our networks and spheres of impact and influence exponentially. This allows people to build new relationships that can be beneficial from both a personal and professional standpoint. It also provides opportunities to learn new things and to gain much broader insights into issues they may be facing.
The key, of course, is finding balance. My top two tips:
  • Use technology appropriately. That means don’t use technology to email someone who sits in a cubicle across from you, to text someone who you’re standing next to, or to replace picking up the phone to have a real conversation with a business colleague.
  • Rely on non-technology communication methods whenever your message is ambiguous or has the potential to be misinterpreted. Technology-based communications can work well to convey factual information, but can cause misunderstandings and potentially negatively impact relationships when the message is more complex, nuanced or emotional.
This infographic illustrates how social media is making (some of) us socially awkward.  How are your personal and professional interactions being impacted?

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