Technically Speaking, I Still Prefer Face-to-Face: How I’m (Still) Working Through my Complicated Relationship with Technology

When I went to college, I was the only kid on my floor who hadn’t connected with my roommate ahead of time. I felt some sense of panic. The girls down the hall had coordinated matching bedding. Was this what you did at private school? I was already behind. 

Nothing new for me. 

My parents weren’t ones to purchase a video camera when we were born. Photos were rare and even now, we have gotten terrible about cataloging the digital files. 

I don’t recall having a computer at home until high school, and even then, its primary use was for typing papers. 

A Tech-o-Phobe in a Tech-Obsessed World

Perhaps for this reason, technology never interested me much. Instead I gravitated toward stationery, journals, clean lined paper and folders: organizing tools I could see and touch. It made more sense to my brain. After all, I’m a visual learner.

I was also afraid I might make something disappear into the abyss in this tech-box and ruin something that didn’t belong to me.  After all, these new age viruses don’t come with antibiotics. (At least not that I know of?!)

An almost tech-free childhood can be both a blessing and a curse. / Mashable

This meant I adapted in other ways. I got creative as I always have. 

At some point along the way, though, the speed of technological advancement seemed to increase so rapidly that I began to feel I should make more of an effort. I took courses, watched tutorials and began learning which tasks to delegate. 

In some ways I still feel behind, making me especially empathetic to the plight of coal and textile workers, and others who feel their livelihood and very identities are at risk. This is one way I have become especially effective as a compassionate change manager: by recognizing the mourning that comes with the loss of old ways. 

In adapting to new ways of doing business and networking, I am learning what technology I need and, more importantly, how to show up fully in a realm that doesn’t feel fully real. 

Technology as a Business Tool

This real conversation with my comms consultant provides a snapshot of my feelings about tech: complicated.

As a business owner and organization development practitioner, I often wonder how much tech I truly need. 

I have hired a fabulous communications consultant to take some of this work off of my plate. But it is often difficult to hand over the reins and trust that someone else will express your messaging–particularly when you are not a media buff. 

She, along with others, continues to guide me on days when I feel I am sending too much of myself out into the ether of the internet and when I wonder if the media is a narcissistic act. 

As with all change work, I have learned so much. When I have been more vulnerable, it has not gone without my feeling attacked and as though I want to soothe everyone individually and collectively. And because most digital communication takes place in the public square without the parameters of agreed upon office hours, there is an expectation of no time off; that somehow access to me and to anyone is 24/7. 

As I often tell my clients, dilemmas like this are an opportunity for exploration and play.

One possible solution is setting firmer boundaries. But what is the best way? Perhaps with stricter office hours? Or predetermined bottom lines of what I will and will not engage in, and for how long?

Choosing to use our energy and expertise in ways that best align is simply strategic. 

The Internet: A Dialogue Free-For-All?

I once wrote an article and a non-sequitur comment was made about Jesus. I noticed I shied away from engaging with the commenter–not because I am afraid to engage in difficult dialogue, but because I fear the rabbit hole that may ensue at times. The topic mentioned had nothing to do with religion or spirituality.  

I want to honor wholeness and whole selves. I wanted to tell the “Jesus” commenter: I believe faith and spirituality should enter the conversations we are having about work. Yet I want these conversations to be relevant and contextualized so that they can be fully honored–just like any other important topic or aspect of identity. 

This said, I know folks who have made dialogue in the public square of tech their area of expertise and will be happy to direct others to this work if that is of interest. I am also slowly making strides to learn more about the possibilities, but this is not where my work sits currently.  When we engage face to face we able to express affect and maintain civility in different ways than I have thus far witnessed online. 

(Re)Learning to Simply Enjoy Each Other 

Internet and technology are beautiful tools for connection. But tech can also isolate people sitting at the very same table.

How many of us have seen a table full of people just like this, silently staring and scrolling? / Jaburg Wilk

My upbringing, my personality and my life experiences have given me wonderful gifts. Sometimes, this meant learning how NOT to be.

For example, when he was alive, my dad was ALWAYS on his phone. He took calls from the pool on our vacations and in the car. This was especially frustrating because we were not with him as often as we might have liked. It may have taught work ethic, but what kind?

My mother never lets herself truly relax because she was taught that women do not get to rest. She can watch a movie with us or her grandchildren only if she is ironing or completing paperwork.

It even effects my generation, as I watch my sisters often search the internet while simultaneously playing with their children. 

We all do this, and sometimes proudly call it ‘multi-tasking.’ 

This is why connection is SO. DARN. SIGNIFICANT. As in, statistically significant, says We Forum:

Gallup research shows that only 20 percent of American employees ‘strongly agree’ to having a best friend at work. However, if that portion increased to 60 percent, organizations would enjoy 36 percent fewer safety incidents; 7 percent more engaged customers; and 12 percent higher profit. 

In short, belonging leads to engagement, which kickstarts productivity. 

Create space to hear one another.  Active listening is great, but engaged listening is even more powerful.

My belief: The more technology we develop, the more we need to return to our original forms of communication in order to hold onto our basic ability to thrive in the world and in community. 

And I’m not the only one: Simply Google: “the more technology we have the less we communicate.” 

Fast Company argues technology makes connecting easier than ever, yet still “more than 80% of employees say their boss doesn’t listen well.” They assert: “It’s not the tool; it’s how you use it.” 

So it seems the key is to find a blend–of modern AND “old” ways of connecting in person–to increase loyalty, retention, performance, overall well-being and healthy employees and organizations. 

It’s simple, but it’s not easy. It can be, however. 

Contact us to continue this conversation and to design a plan that works for you and for your organization.  To set up a 30-minute phone chat with a member of our team, sign up here or email ahilb@graymake.com.

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