It’s not flash news the fact that technology has increased the amount of interactions we have today with other people. We communicate more and with more audiences. It’s now easier than ever was to send a message to another person, regardless of where she is, what time it is and even what language she speaks. The joint capabilities of the internet, devices and apps make for limitless possibilities when reaching out to someone.
Yet, more doesn’t mean better. And easier sometimes mean less accurate when it comes to communicating, in the whole sense of the word, which is transmitting meaningful information in a way that is fully understood by the other end and so can be processed correctly.
As we now have increased the amount of interactions, are they of the same quality than when we could reach a reduced audience? Do we remember the same amount of information today, when talking to tens of individuals per day, than when we did to a handful? Do we care the same?
Looking at the easiness: do we pay the same attention to what we communicate and how today as compared to 10 years back? Do we craft our messages with the same level of detail? Do you remember the effort you put in writing a letter (a physical one that is) versus what it takes to write an email?
I sometimes get the feeling we’re using technology as an excuse to a faulty communication process. Some examples that come to mind while thinking of this:
- the use of email as a shield behind which we hide from human contact, from talking or even meeting people we don’t particularly feel comfortable with. Together with this, the excuse that if it isn’t on email, it doesn’t exist or we don’t have to do anything with it (procrastination at its best)
- the blame on technology for when our communications are not good. -“Oh, didn’t you receive my whatsapp on time?” -“Don’t tell me you didn’t get the hangout invitation for meeting up” -“I called you on facetime but it didn’t work”. In most, if not all, of those cases the real reason for communication to fail was not technology, but a hidden human desire or condition not to success.
- on the other side of the spectrum, the incredible trust we have today in technology and its reliability. How strict we can be with others if they don’t live up to our expectations? -“Hey, I sent you a text 4 hours ago and you haven’t responded yet, what’s wrong with you?”
- considering technology a perfect replacement for in-person interactions. This often results in misinterpretation of the messages or meaning because context is lost. When the other person or group is absorbing the message, they are focused on the entire environment around them, meaning the other person uses all five senses in the interaction: 83% sight, 11% hearing, 3% smell, 2% touch and 1% taste.(1)
As powerful and useful technology is, at the end it’s a tool. It’s not an end in itself but a mean to do something, to communicate. And as with any other tool, it’s our responsibility to use it wisely.
Have you experienced other situations where technology was a excuse? Which ones?
(1) Pease B., Pease A. (2004). The Definitive Book of Body Language. New York, NY: Bantam Books