As technology has increased in both methods and sophistication, we have replaced a majority of our basic conversations into more modalities such as emails, texts, posts, and sending the every so cute picture in order to convey our feelings at the moment. This happens in the office, the home, and most any other place you can find humans- restaurants, gym, etc. Next time you run errands or out at a restaurant for a nice meal, take the time to notice the habits of the majority of the other patrons in the room and you will see a variety of activity with smartphones, iPads, pictures being taken of meals to post on Facebook, etc. We have become addicted to our technology.
I’ve worked in online higher education technology for over fifteen years so it would stand to reason that I too, find value in technology given the modality of my effort support an online learning environment. I believe in technology and find value in many aspects of this tool. However, not so long ago, I was home ill and my husband had left me all the necessities at the foot of the bed should I need anything during the day. I had, in no particular order: 2 iPads (his in case my battery ran down) 2 laptops (my personal and my work) and 2 smartphones (work and personal). We are the only two adults in this home and between his technology and mine, we have 4 phones, 3 laptops, 2 iPads, and 1 desktop computer. Folks- this is a problem and not one that is isolated to my home.
Because of this discovery, we have instituted a ritual in our home that has caught on with friends and family. We have designated a few days of the month to be technology free. Given our professional lives, it’s challenging to do this fulltime during the week, but some nights we turn it all off in order to spend time together reading, playing cards, or just talking about world events. Some weekends, we announce on Facebook that we are turning it all off for the weekend in case anyone needs us, they will actually have to call us in order to find us. It was tough at first, but now we openly welcome the disconnect from the immediate gratification of technology and knowledge in order to get back to a simpler time and less stimulated pathway of information. Try it a few times and you start to see the value in what I am suggesting.
Talking conveys messages- both spoken word and the non-verbal messages. That is a critical part of communication that is lacking in technology efforts. Many times, because we find it quicker and easier to send a text or email, we give little consideration into how that email will be perceived, read, and interpreted. Sure, we have all typed in CAPS at times to GET OUR MESSAGE across to the reader, but then we also send considerable time in apologizing or restating our message in order to soothe ruffled feathers or misinterpretations. Don’t get engulfed in an email battle with a colleague and instead, walk over to talk to them or pick up the phone if the location is further than the same building. Less email and more talk- stop looking at the screen and look into someone else’s.
Because of technology, we feel stronger in our messages behind an email address than truly just communicating with another individual face to face. I promise the strongly worded email will have less power when you see the recipient of that email smile at you or agree with your message. Watching people’s reactions, non-verbal cues, and expressions will give you better insight and intel into who you are working with rather than creating a narrative about a person based on a few email exchanges.