Is Technology Killing Human Interaction?
Technology has given every industry across the globe, many ways to save time, resources, and money. It has increased the range that organizations have to reach across the world in bigger, better ways.
However, there are some aspects of technology that may need to be more closely examined. While the digitization of the world may be providing us with a myriad of different advantages, is it possible our smartphones and gadgets are doing so at the expense of basic, human interaction?
At BioBridges, we believe in the importance of forming positive relationships in the workplace which begs the question: is the evolution of technology helping or hindering this vital part of success? There are many ways to look at and answer this question.
Interactions change with each generation and in no time in history has human interaction changed more than over the past 20 years. Human interaction – not to be confused with communication – involves more than just speech. It’s body language, facial expressions, laughter, touch, and everything involved in sharing your thoughts, ideas, concerns, triumphs, and fears. While there are certain professionalism characteristics to keep in mind when it comes to human interaction in the workplace, interaction is an integral part of having a cohesive team that works together.
How Technology Helped Business Interactions
Before the invention of cell phones, there were landlines – and many of them – which cost billions of dollars to establish. If a customer, client, friend or supervisor needed to reach you, they would call and – if you were present – reach you. If not, they would be put on hold or have to leave a message. Still, the invention and utilization of the telephone was both feared and praised – much like the internet today.
Today, however, the average smartphone user checks their cell phone 80 times per day which makes reaching those you need to speak with much more convenient and possible.
Rather than going through a lengthy conversation or having to traverse to another office or department, there are multiple platforms available to send instant messages.
Share With Multiple Sources
Rather than having to go see people face-to-face and present them with copies of important information, data can be cloud-stored and shared instantaneously with a group of designated people.
Where before, making an organization run smoothly meant meaningful discussions and negotiating, technology allows today’s organizations to automate everything from emails to updates, removing these tasks from the desk of previously held positions.
How Technology Harms Business Interactions
While there are clearly advantages that technology has given today’s global workforce, other aspects might be suffering because of it.
Easy to Miscommunicate
Have you ever sent a text, IM, or email that was meant to express one thing but was received as something entirely different? This is just one way that technology hinders our abilities to effectively communicate. Whether due to a typo or because a tone of voice cannot be detected in a text so your joke came off as sarcasm, miscommunication via technology is sometimes a problem that can affect productivity as well as relationships and morale.
As mentioned, communication is a part of interaction but it is not the whole of interaction. When you meet with a colleague or friend in person and you can see their facial expressions, body language, wardrobe, eyes, etc. you’re better able to pick up on how they’re feeling and their general mindset. Conversely, if you ask a colleague or friend over an email how their night was and their response is,”Great, had a relaxing evening,” you really have no way of knowing how forthright they are being. Asking them in person with eye contact and attention, not only serves to give you a feel of where they are mentally but helps them to feel as if you’re really listening.
No More Small Talk
Small talk (weather, pets, family, etc.) is quite difficult unless done face-to-face but when our conversations are all or mostly via technology, this important part of relationship building and personal growth diminishes or disappears.
No Pat on the Back
While a text message, email, or IM that congratulates you on a job well-done might be nice to read, science tells us these virtual pats on the back are nothing near as important – or as effective – as a literal pat on the back. Touch is the first sense we are aware of and, as such, our most used. Scientists have found that touch is a powerful way to convey emotions and receiving a touch produces positive emotions such as joy, love, gratitude, and sympathy.
Bringing Human Interaction to the Office Culture
Scientists have found many correlations between positive human interactions in the workplace, and healthy physiological responses. Essentially, healthy, positive experiences among coworkers is good for their health.
Set an Example
It’s easy to get stuck in the habit of using our phones to convey our messages. But setting an example by walking to your colleague’s desk or office, or having coffee or lunch with a friend rather than sending a message, puts out a positive vibe that is sure to be felt by those who admire your willingness to put down technology in favor of human interaction.