I love technology.
There’s something about seeing innovation fall into the hands of the masses that makes me geek out like nothing else. In the past century, we’ve gone from carriages to rocket ships. I mean, I wasn’t there when they built the pyramids or Stonehenge or anything, but it seems to me that the past hundred years has contained more technological innovation than ever before, and the craziest of all are the tools for communication that normal, everyday people have access to.
For example, I can send a ten-second video to a friend via Snapchat and then screenshot her reply. Then I can take that same screenshot and put it on Instagram, broadcasting her ridiculous face to thousands of people (just kidding, like I have that many followers).
But as excited as I get about this technology, as incredibly cool and convenient as it is, I fear that it is cheapening our communication skills.
I know this is not a new concept. Grammar and spelling skills suffer because of texting lingo; face-to-face communication skills go out the window in favor of Skype, FaceTime, or email. And you’ve heard all of this before. But what do you do about it? What do I do about it?
So far, I haven’t done anything about it. Good people skills are in my genes (thanks salesman dad and extrovert mom), so I have yet to experience true social awkwardness. But I can feel it happening. The more time I spend communicating with people from behind a screen, the less I am capable of interpreting sarcasm; the harder it is to pick up on conversational cues. There are fewer and fewer friends that I get excited to see in person. I Facebook-stalk everyone, so when I actually spend time with people, there’s no fun of discovery or excitement of getting to know each other. Even with people I already know extremely well, we have so much less to talk about when we’re together because we already saw all of each other’s Tweets, so we just watch a movie instead.
I am not about to give up technology. Other than the fact that invention excites me so much, I’m a college student in the last month of my last semester, so my smart phone is going nowhere.
But maybe there are some things I can do to make technology less of a hindrance on my relationships. Maybe I can reform certain aspects of my interactions to make them more authentic.
Here are some ideas:
1. Watch fewer movies together. My friends and I watch a TON of movies, mainly because things like Facebook and Twitter have spoiled our time of sharing what has been going on in our lives. But then when we watch movies, we aren’t talking either. Our relationships weaken.
However, we have recently gotten pretty into board games (Settlers of Catan, anyone?), and it seems to be a great way to insure interaction. We’re fighting and laughing and enjoying each other instead of staring glossy-eyed at a screen. For some fun game ideas, check out Geek & Sundry’s TableTop.
2. Stop Facebook stalking. Looking at my news feed is one thing, but clicking on someone’s profile and going all the way back to their Halloween photos (and then clicking on the cute guy in the picture but oh crap he has a girlfriend and oh she goes to my school but her brother is cute)… that’s a different story entirely. Not only does it waste my time, but I already know everything about everyone I’m actually likely to meet before I even meet them. If I would stop, I would have more time on my hands (something all of us are always looking for more of), and new friendships could grow more authentically.
Now that I think about it, I’m pretty sure there’s a How I Met Your Mother episode about that. (Yep, there is. Click here.)
3. Make cold calls instead of sending emails. Cold calling is the process of calling someone via telephone who was not expecting such an interaction. This one is a big one for me right now since I am applying for jobs.
One of my mom’s friends has been helping me with my résumé. The other day, she sent me an email about a company run by someone she has known for a long time, and at the end of her email, she said, “don’t hesitate to give them a cold call.” But I hesitated. Oh, did I hesitate. What would I say? Who am I even asking for? No, no, I think I’ll just go to the website and find an email address.
So that’s what I did. But maybe I shouldn’t have. Cold calls probably suck (not that I’ve ever made one), but there’s no way they are as bad as interviews. Interviewing is a necessary evil, but maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if I made cold calls more often. Sure, if there’s a specific job posting, it’s always best to follow the procedure they give you, but if you’re simply interested in a company, perhaps cold calling is the way to go. It sets a good precedent, making you seem ballsy when few other people would have taken that step. It allows you to build a rapport with someone at the company, maybe even the person who could hire you. It’s something to consider.
What are some ways you have noticed technology encroaching on your communication skills? Do you have any more ideas about how to prevent it?