Paul, the VP of the company where I consult, and I were discussing the explosion of technological communication. Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter – on top of the now old-fashioned texting and emailing – were what his college-aged son lived on. He shook his head, dismayed.
“The thing is, kids think they’re really connecting. But that’s not connecting. Talking. That’s how you get to know people.”
Paul is nearly 70 years old, and he’s one of the coolest people I know. He’s an avid hiker, a fly fisherman, has a level of intelligence that could challenge any PhD, and has a sound way of looking at the world. Plus he’s funny. Belly-laugh funny.
“Well, Paul… I don’t know if that’s so true.”
Just a few years ago, when I was a panelist on a Stanford radio talk show, I touted my never-to-be-humble opinion that technology was killing authentic communication. I was shocked that college kids thought that an email was appropriate for asking people out on dates and for condolence notes. I felt that they were losing true connectivity. Now I felt differently.
Perhaps it was Facebook that did it for me. On the heels of my class reunion (my 10 year reunion – again!), I finally accepted an invitation to join Facebook. I had no idea what it was at the time, or why I needed to know what everyone was doing at any given moment. But then the invitations for friends started to come in. I felt like I was living “this is your life.” I think Facebook is particularly fun at this age, when I have enough history to have perspective, and enough ahead of me to look forward to.
Life has been segmented for me. There were the Greenfield, WI years. The college years. The New York years, and now, the California portion. Now, on Facebook, my life didn’t look like a bunch of segregated stops. It seemed seemed more like one long, picturesque road. I hadn’t thought about Jana from elementary school since, well, elementary school. My college boyfriend has resurfaced, as has my first insurance agent. Suddenly, I was having the opportunity to include, and be included in, the lives of those who have impacted me, and my friends from various parts of my life were mingling.
There was a study done that revealed members of tribal communities rarely suffer depression. The reason is two-fold. Each person feels they play a vital role in the tribe. And each person knows they are not alone. Imagine if technological communication can help us this way, reminding us that we are part of a big web of people. Imagine if we directly helped one another through this web. “I have a friend who is an experienced sales person and is looking for a job…” can go a long way on Facebook or Twitter.
I agree with Paul. Technology does not replace a phone call. I would never accept a date via text, just as I would consider an email condolence message insincere. But it is nice to create a continuum in this journey called life.