Thought Tuesday

Connecting in a Digital Age

We live in a digital age. In my lifetime have changed so much. It is clear that technology has made significant improvements in our lives. This digital age has changed the very nature how business, friendships, news, etc. work. It has made our lives easier, placing most of our lives on the web and allowing us to communicate with others quickly from across the world. Things are continuing to get faster, smarter, and more connected every time I turn around. By the time a new cell phone arrives on my doorstep, it is out of date. Everything is digital… customer service is digital… business and shopping is digital… conversations are digital… social interactions are now mostly digital. Let’s be real. Most of us use our smart phones to inform, to request, to collaborate, and to connect, but we have paid the price.

This digital age is helping many of us to stay connected… and yet, we are losing connections. Our reliance on technology can be a hindrance as we continually replace face-to-face, human interaction with screens. As a theatre educator, I believe that face-to-face is still the most effective and productive form of communication. The kids I see on a daily basis struggle to have meaningful relationships face-to-face. They struggle to take the opportunities they have to engage with others with empathy, making memories, making professional connections that could lead to letters of recommendation or even jobs, or even making new friendships. They struggle to make positive professional and personal connections that they cannot duplicate in a virtual environment. Can technology be to blame?

We are created to form relationships with others. We all have the basic desire and longing to to share our lives with family, friends, and even strangers. Social interaction is important, especially face-to-face where tone, facial expression, body language, and word choices communicate the true intent within the interaction. However, we seem to be content to choose communication via online withe Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and whatever that new version of Vine is rather than having face-to-face interactions. People can be sitting in the same room communicating completely through memes, texts, and video all while only uttering a few grunts and laughs in between shared screen shots. These tech-false relationships lead to misunderstandings, miscommunications, and assumptions leading to a distorted view of others as we cannot get a realistic view of the intent of the communication. We are creating social isolation in a crowd. We have failed to live up to creative potential.

The impact of body language on relationship building is invaluable because we have the opportunity to process nonverbal cues that we use to build trust.

Communicating face-to-face is information rich. We are able to interpret the meaning of a conversation from more clues than the words uttered. The fact is, most of your message is communicated through tone, pacing, facial expressions and body language (sounds like acting techniques). We gauge these nonverbal clues to learn how our messages are being excepted. With no physical cues, facial expressions/gestures, or the ability to react immediately, the risk of disconnection, miscommunication, and conflict is heightened. As we deny these interpersonal cues, the brain struggles and communication suffers.

We are projecting a false idea of who we are as we hide behind our small screens. Not many people really post about their bad days. Most people post about how great their lives are. This one sided “conversation” leads to self loathing as we compare our own lives to the perfect lives we see posted, strains relationships, and complicates our spiral into isolation.

Somehow we have forgotten that physical face-to-face interactions is one of the most important determinations for our bodies to keep us happy and mentally healthy. It is essential. It is irreplaceable. Face-to-face interactions help to create bonds that we can trust. So, this Thanksgiving may I suggest that you put down the smart phones and engage in conversations, make food and memories together with friends and family. Make connections with words, smiles, hugs, and face-to-face communications.

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