The technological communication paradox

On a hike today with two friends through the mountains of south San Jose, an interesting conversation developed. We spoke of technology from a social perspective, discussing its benefits and drawbacks in depth. During this discussion an interesting paradox dawned upon me.

Technology has done a great deal for our societies. It is incredible how much technology has helped solved some of the world’s great problems. But, there is always a catch, there is never a “free lunch”. While technology has helped our communities at a macro level, I firmly believe that it has harmed our social interactions from a micro perspective. Enter the technology paradox.

Dating back to the tribal days, trust has been and always will be built on physical interaction. The issue with technology is that this level of face-to-face interaction is not something that can be coded. While we can have Skype interviews and Go To Meetings, the most important decisions and meetings always take place in person. I don’t think this will ever change.

This is the fundamental misunderstanding that leads to the downfall of technology. We think that we can substitute time that we spend with people for emails and text messages. The lack of effort, time, and physical contact can make a deep, powerful relationship diminish to a simple acquaintance. This is a sad reality.

Technology is a fantastic tool, don’t get me wrong, when used correctly. Facebook is a great way to see what friends are doing and a good way to share the interesting things you are up to, as well. When used properly, I am a huge advocate for social media. For maintaining a large volume of surface level acquaintances, it is the most superior platform.

But the next time you want to catch up with people you love and want to keep in your life forever, pick up the phone and call them. Better yet, hop on a plane and visit them. Spend your valuable time hearing about what they have been doing and their current situation. Dedicate your most valuable resources, time and energy, to the relationship and I guarantee you will love the results. I can promise you that sending an email or a Facebook message won’t generate the same feelings.

Today, I challenge you to browse Facebook and find a friend that you haven’t talked to on the phone or in person in an extended period of time. Pick up your phone and call this person. Hear about their lives and catch up. Take action to counteract the technology’s disadvantage.

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