View from an airplane window at the wings and flying over a scenic landscape of green hills and rivers

I have a theory. More and faster and instant communication portals and devices do not make us better communicators. We just have more and faster communication portals and devices.

The origins of my theory this morning: I have a contractor completing a year-long project at my home who is getting quite lazy and we are literally 6 hours from completing the job. The last few months have been horrible trying to get his attention on finishing the job. I make a phone call to the business number. Voice mail. I make a phone call to the contractor’s cell phone. Voice mail. I send a text to the cell phone. No answer. I send an e-mail to the business. No reply. FAX. Nothing. E-mail marked urgent. Nothing. Contractor drops by unannounced. Promises to come back Friday. No show Friday. No call. No text. No e-mail. It is an endless loop of communication devices. Until recently, these modes of communication worked just fine.

No doubt, I am frustrated by this situation with my contractor (a bit cranky, really). And the M.I.A. contractor is one example of millions in a day. I also notice people texting others while sitting around a table together. I notice the commuter train filled with loud conversation on cell phones; no one is talking to one another. I notice pedestrians walking down the streets having animated conversations into cell phones. I notice an inordinate amount of time spent in front of a computer screen. I notice 90% of all connection with any charity is via an electronic communication. There is a lot of connectivity without much meaningful connecting.

None of the technical access points available to anyone make a difference if the users of the devices aren’t committed to the people generating the words being communicated. We’re so busy being connected that we become more disconnected. Our lives have devolved into 100 letter status updates and not to fulfilling promises, obligations, contracts, agreements. What would it be like to spend less time managing the number of messages and devices and more time managing the relationship with the person on the other end of the device? In other words, it’s not the managing of the message or the device that matters as much as managing the relationship with the messenger and recipient!

I am not device-phobic. Really. They come in really handy at times. Many times. What I notice though is that when we lose the human connection with one another we are not nearly as engaged, committed, present, or successful. We hide in the transmission (or exchanges) and the more devices that exist between people, the more places to hide. There is a huge paradox here: The more connected we are the less connected we are. The relationship becomes about how often and in how many ways we miss one another and not actually those times we connect.

Our lives, our relationships, our businesses, our organizations, our boards of directors, our communities, our friends, our kids…we fail when we forget that the device is merely the conduit for people to connect. It’s the relationship that matters! Isn’t it funny that the now vintage telephone service advertising said to “reach out and touch someone” and there was no reaching or touching involved?

How important is technology to you? What are your core “technology” values? What do you do to manage and balance the real and the virtual worlds in which you live/work? If you rely upon technology to communicate, what do you do that makes the communication effective? Authentic? Connected? What would be possible if we unplugged just a bit?
NOTE: Contractor has never returned to the job and has been replaced.
Enjoy the day!


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