Is this the least social time in human history?
The question may sound odd coming from one whose daily work centers around social media, but sometimes I wonder if he haven’t taken giant strides backward in recent years in our ability to simply be social with other real live human beings around us. Here are some examples of why I’m concerned…
- It is nearly impossible to go out to eat with coworkers, family or friends without a majority of the people spending more time looking at their smartphones than actually engaging with and enjoying others sitting at the table with them.
- How many homes have multiple family members each on some electronic device for long periods of time, but each rarely interacting in person with others under the same roof?
- How distracted are we by multiple conversations on multiple social platforms to the point of never really giving our full attention to anyone – either face-to-face or online?
I’m a huge fan of social media and technology in general. It has been the focus of my life’s work for years and will be so for the foreseeable future. I’m not suggesting abandoning the technology; that isn’t going to happen, anyway. But somewhere along the line we must recognize that we’re missing out on the face-to-face present when our heads are buried in our phones, tablets or PCs. As an introvert, I need and cherish my times of solitude, but when I’m with others, they deserve my full attention.
We’re missing chances at rich conversation and deeper, more meaningful relationships when we don’t get past the depth of 140 characters in what we communicate. We limit our conversations and the wisdom we can glean from others’ experiences when our dependence on technology omits communication with those who don’t use the technology. Our monetary wealth and eagerness to spend it on gadgets contributes to a poverty in relationships due to the lack of investment we make in deeper, face-to-face interaction.
Life is always a balancing act. Living for extended periods on extremes is rarely advisable. If you wonder if the above picture fits you or not, it probably does. That doesn’t mean you run to the other extreme by deactivating your social media accounts or giving up your smartphone. It may mean, however, that you set it aside when in the presence of others to develop that which cannot exist online. It may mean you don’t respond to every notification sound or vibration when in the presence of others, reserving that check for when you leave their company.
Be here. Be present. Respect those you are physically with and give them your full attention. Let’s not let a wave of social media opportunities actually turn us into a less social generation. We can and should do better than that.