Each new phone to hit the market is skinnier, smarter and takes higher-res video. The internet bombards us with flashier, faster content. And social media distills our ambitions and sharing into convenient hors d’oeuvres of social interaction.
Despite these technological wonders, though, there’s an increasing sense that we are becoming less connected to people. What can be done?
Hang up and Walk
Social Fluency, a training provider for the digerati, claims that “our ability to communicate, tell stories and influence others is changing as natural opportunities to practice social interaction are being rapidly replaced by screen time and faster typing skills.”
It’s too true: I’ve walked into a pole while shopping online and been walked into by countless people texting on the street.
Texting definitely has its virtues. RingCentral even introduced the first business texting feature, Business SMS, as part of the Office cloud phone suite. Texting can help speed along plans and projects, and offers a way to communicate when you can’t talk.
But make an effort not to avoid in-person social interactions completely (or reduce them to the briefest of exchanges). Follow up with contacts in a more personal way, when time allows.
Don’t Miss Out on Networking Opportunities
One of the biggest paradoxes of the digital age is that as tasks get easier, people become easier to dismiss. LinkedIn’s Endorse feature is a clever way to get a colleague’s attention, but since it’s easy for anyone to endorse anyone else, the feature loses its impact — unless you take the connection further.
Forbes magazine suggests, “When you are all-in, you will build relationships that matter.” For starters, send a personal note that pays attention to details about the recipient’s profile and current status. Keep the dialogue alive.
There are so many ways to spend leisure time – and, sadly, not much leisure time available. It’s all too easy not to commit to one activity for fear of missing something better. Millennials even have a term for this feeling: FOMO, or “fear of missing out”.
Social media and our culture of constant connectivity have only exacerbated the FOMO trend. Its apogee may have been reached in 2008, this New York Times piece describes: A man, after inviting 700 friends to a Facebook event, received 15 ‘attending’ replies and 60 ‘maybes’. Yet only one person showed.
What this means for you and your social life is that simply having a presence at live events can make you a bold, memorable and respected figure. Ninety percent of life, Woody Allen famously said, is just showing up – and that may be truer now than ever before.
So put your smartphone down in meetings, don’t shy away from real-world networking events and shock people by making effort to connect with them.
Originally published Nov 13, 2013, updated May 27, 2021