A few years ago I was boarding a flight from Colombo to London, returning back to Ottawa after a business trip. The flight was taking off at an ungodly hour and I was in no mood to be chatty with anyone prior to take-off, so I did what anyone would do and decided to check my phone. I was in fact sending off some last minute goodbye texts to friends and colleagues. I didn’t even realize I was seated and being served a welcome drink until the flight attendant said ” staying connected ’til the very last second Ms. Perera?” In my attempt to “connect” with my friends I had completely shut out the world around me and disconnected with my surroundings.
With the influx of new technology aimed at making the corporate world more accessible to citizens everywhere all the time, we seem to spend a lot of time trying to “stay connected”. These days everyone’s got a blackberry, iphone, or another variety of smart phone that “connects” them to everyone else. But just how well do we know the people that we email, tweet, text, or add on Facebook?
In the corporate world we use social networking tools and social media to grow our networks and promote our businesses. Most professionals prefer to connect on LinkedIn but just how many of the contacts on LinkedIn have they actually met? Do they even know 50% of the people on their friend or contact list? I must admit I am guilty of this – I don’t personally know everyone on my social media profiles and I haven’t met all my contacts on LinkedIn in person.
We all seem to find it much easier to email a colleague about a report that’s due or finalize plans with friends over Whatsapp than to actually pick up the phone and call them. In person interaction seems to be at an all time low as new developments in technology are slowly making in person meetings a thing of the past. All this technology may not be a good thing for our own social nuances as we don’t see people face to face or interact with them in person, leaving us without the need to express emotions and exchange niceties. Sure we can write someone a nice a message or email but wouldn’t it be much more effective in person? Or even a hand-written note as opposed to a typed text? However with all the typing, texting and emailing I hate to think what everyone’s penmanship would look like, I know mine has certainly seen better days.
The constant need to “stay connected” can also remove us from the real world, as you can see from my experience. The truth is connections can be made online, but they are strengthened in person, through human interaction. After all isn’t that the point of networking events? Even though smart phones and laptops are invaluable assets to self-promotion and growing a business they do not trump one-on-one human interaction. The reality is we need to be able to see and speak to someone in person in order to trust them, gain their trust and buy or sell products. This concept might seem a bit archaic in a world of conference calls, virtual assistants and online shopping, but I think it’s time to get back to some real face-time – actually meeting someone face to face and having a conversation, before we lose our humanity.
Praveeni Perera is the CEO and co-founder of Professional Edge Consulting a corporate training company based in Ottawa offering training and coaching services to clients around the world. She can be reached via Website, Twitter, Facebook or her Blog.