Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Posts tagged ‘Facebook’

Take 5 to Show You Care!

Empathy and self-reflection are two important human characteristics that we seem to spend a lifetime trying to develop. But what if there was something undermining this development without us even realizing it? Actually there is – and it’s partially due to the digital age of communication.

Let’s look at just one of the possibilities – our techie patterns of communication. Many of us seem wedded to the texting, Facebook, Instant Messaging, Twitter etc. craze in which we either send ‘words’ (I use the term loosely) in 1 or 2 phrases to communicate. The message is received but little else. In fact, I know of a lonely mother of 2 adult children who receives 95% of all communication from them this way!

Our voice is energy. Real conversation is an exchange that involves two parties with both an intended message and feelings involved. When we actually talk to someone it causes our brains to process their humanness and helps us develop greater empathy. Interestingly, a recent psychological study of students from the smartphone generation has found a steep decline in empathy. Not just a decline – but a steep decline. That’s big. Is it time to reevaluate our incessant 3-5 truncated ‘word’ response to someone and take an additional 5 minutes to actually talk to them – hear their voice – and listen as we check up on how they are doing? Don’t have a lot of time? No problem. Just start the conversation with, ‘ I only have 5 minutes but wanted to talk with you.’ You set the stage for them to give you their undivided attention.

The smart phones are an incredible tool for both efficiency and effectiveness. I am not discounting the importance of being able to send off a quick response to a colleague or friend in need of a response regarding a time or date. That just makes sense. But rather it is the other type of communication I am talking about which cannot replace the positive effect of a heart to heart talk regardless of how many emoji symbols such as 😏 ☕️ 💁 you use. Something is just left flat and feels a bit missing in this later type of communication.

Steve Jobs, the man who said he wanted to make a dent in the Universe (and did so) by creating the smart phone realized this as well. Even given the incredible way he was able to reshape communication in our world he still forbade tablets and smartphones at the dinner table and encouraged real conversation to take place instead. He recognized the value of human connection.

When we see people unable to function without checking their phones repeatedly we are really witnessing lonely people in search of connection. It is as if they are saying ‘I’m here…include me too,’ as they scroll the latest social media site in search of a bit of news from family or friends. Sad. Unfortunately, this type of connection does not help to develop empathy or self-esteem. In fact, it may even erode them further since there is no personal depth or meaningful exchange between people.

Maybe we can’t find the time to send a Hallmark greeting card (yes … they still exist and are beautiful things to send and receive) but when we choose to stop merely ‘thumbing’ our way through communication and occasionally pick up the phone and call we are saying ‘ I care enough about you to stop and touch base.’ Greater empathy and self-esteem will result on everyone’s part in the long run. That’s a beautiful thing.

Have a great few days!

Your Social Footprint

A recent article in ‘The Week’ magazine summarized a research study from the University of Michigan regarding social-networking sites (Facebook). Looking into this a bit further, I discovered that there are many research studies that have been conducted on the topic. The conclusion of these studies is a bit unnerving. It seems that frequent and continual use of these sites (5 times or more per day) leads to greater feelings of loneliness, depression, sadness and even anger. Whoa! I had no idea about the research but had felt a nagging unease when I saw teenagers and adults waiting in line to check out of a store while simultaneously viewing a social media site or texting a 5 second response to someone. I have wondered how present are they in the moment? Watching a family attempting the annual school clothes shopping trip while half of the members are on their phones and emotionally out there in space somewhere just takes the joy out of the experience.

The good news is that the study also found that when the research subjects used direct face-to-face communication with others it resulted in happier and more cheerful feelings. Remember the idea of staying in the present? Another way of thinking about this is to try to keep our attention where our feet are planted. You, your friends, clients and colleagues are worth the time.

Could it be that PART of the reason that people in the United States rate the highest (9.6%) for depression compared to 14 other countries is that we have begun to substitute actual personal contact with a social media site? Are we choosing to live in the shadow of texting and posting rather than ‘live’ contact?

Granted, there are many additional reasons for depression. The economy, personal challenges, family obligations, the pharma companies telling us that if we feel ‘down’ there is a pill for this or that … are just a few examples. What if part of the solution to unhappiness is the overuse of social media and the lack of face-to-face communication? You can fix that one – no cost, no worry, no problem. Just a slight change in habit. Are you up to it?

We may think we do not have a moment to spare in our lives as it is and to take the time to reconnect with a friend or make a new friend is simply out of the question. It may just seem easier, faster and more ‘with it’ to post a message and wait to see who responds. But now you know the long term effects. We can fix this – one person – one commitment at a time.

Like everything else in life the issue becomes one of awareness and moderation.

Have a great few days!