According to several research studies done in 2011 and 2012, 39 percent of Americans spend more time on Facebook than in face-to-face relationships and 10.5 billion minutes per day are spent globally on Facebook alone.
The warp speed shift in social relationships and how we interact is due to social technologies, according to a July 2012 study, “The Social Economy: Unlocking values and productivity through social technologies,” by the McKinsey Global Institute.
The study states that there are greater than 1.5 billion networking users globally and 80 percent of them regularly interact through social networks causing sweeping cultural, social and economic change. People participate online in daily gossip, forming, maintaining and breaking social bonds and even getting married. It maintains that social technologies have literally changed how millions of people live.
The Social Media Catch-22: Social media is here to stay with no end in sight for the possibilities. Most would argue this is a good thing. But, is social media fostering generations of disconnected teens and adults that are constantly in contact but are never really connected? People post messages, email, text and play endless electronic tag with no nurturing results, no-face to-face satisfaction and no tangible interaction. The result – great imbalance in personal relationships.
Are you more connected to your mobile apps, iPod and iTunes than you are with your family and friends? What about your children – are they techno addicts? Do you have face-to-face time with them? What about senior parents who wait by a phone hoping you will call just to hear your voice?
Do you have tangible dependable trustworthy relationships that nurture, encourage and give you face-to-face feedback? Ones that can reach out and hug you when you are down, laugh with you when you are happy, congratulate you with a pat on the back when you are successful, and console you when you are sad.
Technology addiction, isolationism and indifference continue to race toward a non-descript finish line with no rules, no direction and no thought toward the future. Rapidly exploding technology provides instant information and messages, beams pictures from Mars in real time anywhere on planet Earth, allow you to do a virtual tour of real estate you may wish to purchase three thousand miles away and download the latest music release from your favorite artist – but at what price?
Are Relationships at Risk? Social media is dramatically changing personal and business communications, face-to-face connections and relationships. Today, there are at least two generations of loners, adults and teens, who are so technologically oriented they no longer know how to interact in person with family members, teachers, peers and bosses.
Relationships between children and parents suffer and disengage in this impersonal, pre-recorded faceless world. No longer are there any real connections with each other – no face-to-face talk time, no hugs, and no directly engaged interaction. Client/business relationships suffer from lack of eye contact, phone conversation where you can hear the receptiveness of the other person, and no visual body language to observe. Are adults, children and employees so electronically in contact and isolated that they have no meaningful connections? This form of contact takes a huge toll on society and leads to:
disengaged clients and consumers
inability to communicate face to face
loss of connection and respect between parent and child
loss of civility when communicating
Balancing Relationships with Social Media: Social media is very addictive. Create a plan to prohibit the social media takeover of your life and that of your children. The objectives are to create balance and to re-connect on a personal level – in person.
Set aside at least two hours per day where you are not wired or connected electronically – that means no iPads, computers, cell phones or other electronic gadgets. Reserve that time to connect with family, children, friends, clients or co-workers.
Eliminate impersonal communications by surprising a loved one or client with an actual phone call instead of a text, email or tweet. Return a phone message promptly instead of just listening to someone’s message. You and the caller become more engaged and connect emotionally when directly interacting. Due to massive high tech electronic interaction, people are emotionally impoverished and highly value the personal engagement.
Reach out and touch someone (or several someones) emotionally on a daily basis. Even though people are in constant contact, they are never emotionally connected when using social technology. You cannot get a nurturing hug, empathetic look or reassuring touch from a Facebook friend or a Twitter follower. Unfortunately you can be emotionally hurt by a bully posting or tweeting something hurtful.
While there is great untapped potential for social media in the business community, there is great risk for relationships and face-to-face connections with family and friends. Create a plan that will protect you from the downside of social technologies yet fully take advantage of the upside.
Pat Heydlauff speaks from experience. She works with organizations that want to create an environment where employees are engaged, encouraged and involved, and with people who want to be in control, anxiety-free and confident. She is the author of the forthcoming book, Engage: How to Lead with Power, Productivity and Promise and Feng Shui: So Easy a Child Can Do It. She can be reached at 561-799-3443 or engagetolead.com.