While technology has enabled people to connect faster and across vast distances, it has also created barriers around us. A Facebook wall post has now replaced face-to-face interaction and conversation, a phenomenon which is as worrying as it is convenient. While its just fine to use email, text messages and even Facebook, there is a thin line between using and abusing these technologies. It’s important to find ways to communicate with more value and be more genuine, while still keeping pace with the demands of the modern day.
Cut Back on Texting
Texting is a good way of keeping in touch and communicating with another person if calling them is not possible. But unless you cannot help it, give up on the notorious habit of texting – while walking, eating, driving – because texting is not real communication (not to mention the use of so-called “texting language” which has reduced our grammar skills to a dismal level). Cellphones are, at this point, indispensable and an excellent way to stay connected, but if you think you are guilty of using text messages to get away from face to face interaction, then stop. Every once in a while, it’s a good idea to cut back on texting and call people instead. Calling is a great way of enhancing conversations because it’s more direct, with a greater chance of successful communication (and miss out on those awful misunderstandings that result from a misunderstood text). In this era of rapid technological advancement, it’s easy to get lost in a sea of applications which promise faster communication – don’t go for fast, go for substantive. When it comes to communication, old is truly gold.
Instant messaging, social networking and the internet have made us slaves to the speed at which we can connect with people and share information. We want to update our Facebook status, check into locations and make ourselves heard on Twitter; this drive to be noticed can become addictive. It’s time we slow down for a bit and listen instead. What we tend to forget is that the same platforms we use to speak up also have vast amounts of information worth listening to and absorbing. Start listening more, observing more and learning more about your surroundings – develop an attitude of attention to detail and consider a shift in focus. Instead of being so eager to tell the world what’s on your mind, sit back and listen to what others are saying. In this fast-paced, digital age, time is even more precious; use it well by maintaining a balance between how much you speak and how much you listen. A good way of improving your listening skills is to meditate – aim for inner peace and calm for at least 10 minutes every morning and evening, you’ll find yourself more at ease over time and more willing to engage in balanced conversations with people.
Do you have your Facebook open even at work, with an additional app installed in your smartphone? Do you find yourself opening it more than necessary, almost impulsively? Try simply logging out. As human beings, we are naturally wired to engage in and crave interaction. What social networking has done is remarkable, but the development has come at a cost. We are more willing to spend time on Facebook than actually turn away from our desks and have a conversation with the person working right next to us. A good way of improving real time communication is to log off of the internet or log out of your social media. Switch off data services on your smartphone, deactivate social networking accounts for a bit and relax. Logging out doesn’t have to be negative or an act of self-punishment — just look at it as re-connecting with the real world. Instead of choosing to check every notification that comes your way, you make a conscious choice of deciding that being constantly updated is not important. Shut your million virtual connections for a while and concentrate on yourself and the people in your immediate surroundings. The results might just surprise you.
Meet People Face-to-Face
So what does it mean to reduce texting, to listen more, and to escape into the real world from the virtual? It all boils down to realtime physical interaction, something we all need in order to maintain meaningful relationships with people. The next time you open Facebook to catch up with a friend, call them up and meet them instead. Something as casual as coffee or lunch can help you connect and communicate with them in a much more meaningful way. Nowadays meeting people is something a lot of people reserve only for important occasions. The first step to better communication in the digital age is to reconsider our notions about what is worth our time, and what isn’t. The money and resources we end up spending on digital devices could very well be spent instead on taking friends out for coffee. Take time to meet with the people who matter to you and you will get a kind of communication and relationship that staring at a screen just can’t provide.
Technology is a Tool
At the end of the day, we all must acknowledge that embracing technology is the way forward, that it is needed to sustain the million connections we have formed today and to enable us to know more about our world. But it is also worth remembering that technology is only a tool we have at our disposal. Technology is not an end in itself, it is a means to an end, that of better communication and connection. Technology in the digital age can be used to help people live better, to help people earn more, to create better communities and empower individuals. We cannot escape the virtual world and nor should we try, but we can choose to use it more intelligently. Use social networks to find people, to reconnect with old friends, to support a cause and to contribute to the bigger picture in a more substantive manner. When we seek information, when we desire communication, we must use technology as a tool instead of letting it use up our time and energy.