The Human Touch

3 Jan

There’s a curious sense of immediate gratification that comes from social media like blogging, Twitter LinkedIn and Facebook. A sense of having truly done something. Something that many people will see, which gives that something even more validation. It’s addictive. But can that sense of accomplishment be trusted?

Upon having posted something, people who’ve been vetted by me, have vetted me, or both, respond to that something. I wait for their reaction, intentionally or not, and get a sense of recognition and approval for having been noticed. But how genuine is this social media-driven relationship? Just because you comment on my blog, or you have friended me in Facebook, is there true quality in our engagement as human beings?

It’s intriguing how technology is changing interpersonal etiquette. Ten years ago, it was rude to talk on the phone at the grocery. Now, it’s generally accepted to simultaneously be having dinner with friends and monitoring various conversations on Twitter and Facebook via iPhone. At what point do we cross the line between the value of face-to-face interaction and the value of technology driven “friendships?” As human beings, do we have the bandwidth to manage hundreds or thousands of “friends” or “followers” — and should it be a priority to do so? There have been studies on the fallacies of multi-tasking. I think we’re in similar territory here.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe in the benefits of technology and social media–immediacy of information from trusted sources, interconnection capability with industry experts and peers and flattening of the world in a way that provides access for many minds to cooperatively build solutions. And more.

But I wonder, how do our most cherished human relationships suffer as a result of social media over-usage? As humans, we thrive on intimacy of relationship, with family, friends and associates. Much of this involves hugs or high-fives to celebrate, or a shoulder to cry on when it’s time to give support. These are tactile experiences. Much as we try to replicate them via interactive technology–witness the Wii or video conferencing–it’s not the same if it’s not “in person.”

My prediction for 2009: The challenge for social media evangelizers and technology gurus will be in finding a balance, a way to engage in social media that enhances and doesn’t replace true human engagement.  We still need the human touch, probably more than ever. And better ways to manage our “virtual” lives, so that our in-the-moment personal time makes a difference, in a way that we can sense–not simulate.

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One Response to “The Human Touch”

  1. Lara Kretler January 31, 2009 at 6:30 pm #

    I agree and think that social media is the most powerful when it is interspersed with actual in-person get-togethers. The people I have “bonded” with (for lack of a better term) the most over Twitter are the ones I get to see at least monthly at Tweetups, OWL get-togethers, etc. The Columbus tech community has meetups at least weekly or every other week. We have no excuse to stay hidden away behind our computer screens anymore.

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