Personal Engagement: Is Social Media Making Us Anti Social?
Usually I talk about the importance of emotional engagement of our customers or our employees. But today, I want to address the importance of emotional engagement of each other. Or rather the lack thereof, compliments of our assorted gadgetry and addiction to our social media community. In other words, by obsessing about our virtual lives, we are missing out on our actual one.
So forgive me for saying this, but don’t you have better things to do than read my post?
Don’t get me wrong; I’m delighted that you are. I appreciate that you are taking the time to read what I am asking about, especially today. Why today? Because even if it means that I might get a little bit less of your time in the future, it is, as they say, for the greater good. So, here goes…. my question is this:
Is Social Media Making Us Anti Social?
I am hardly the first to question this, but one could hardly argue that social media is in fact an anti social activity. For a fellow that says it beautifully (and while he rhymes no less) in 5 minutes, watch this video by Gary Turk:
If you watched this video, I bet you felt a little guilty. I know I did. I think this is all very true. I love social media. But I am 100% guilty of not “looking up.”
I don’t look up when I am in airports, in line at Starbucks, or while in a waiting room at the doctor’s office. No, I am looking down, my face buried in my phone, tweeting, sending status updates, minding my social media persona.
Meanwhile my actual persona is drab and disinteresting to others, and emotionally engaging to no one. Not that anyone around me would notice. They are buried in their screens as well.
Social Media Has Its Place… But Make Room For Your Life, Too
It is as he says in the video, “I have 422 friends, yet I am very lonely”….
We have become a group of people in a separate existence. Crowded together in a city but world’s apart in existence, oblivious to the other until our name is called at the desk or the battery runs out on our phone.
But as the video points out, what are we missing whilst our eyes are looking down at the screen? Is what we are missing the life we are always complaining we don’t have in the aforementioned status updates?
Toyota had a similar sentiment about the quality of life the digital world can provide in their ad a few years ago:
Social media is not all bad, of course. The truth is, I want to see the “puppy” she’s talking about on her feed. Social media has its place. But like all things it needs moderation. Sometimes it takes negative reinforcement to make it happen.
My son told me when he and his friends meet in a bar they all put their phones in the center of the table. The first person to pick up and check their phone has to buy a round. I could see applications for this at the family dinner table (first one to pick up a phone has to do the dishes, take out the trash, etc.). Or the weekly team meeting (first one to pick up the phone has to clean out the company refrigerator, reconcile the TPS reports, etc.).
One line that really bothered me in the Look Up video was the one that said, “It’s not very likely that you’ll make world’s greatest dad if you can’t entertain a child without using an iPad.” I do worry that as a grandparent (okay so not yet…but some day, if my kids look up from their phones long enough) that young kids spend too much time staring at a screen. Will we grow a ‘generation of idiots with smart phones and dumb people’ as Turk says?
Will This Be The Next Generation’s Big Regret?
When my kids were young we were the first people to have a computer and the first to get on the Internet. I love technology. I thought it was critical that I raised my kids with technology in mind, as they were ‘Digital natives’. My son now works in Digital advertising so you could argue that it worked and he has benefited.
But I genuinely worry about young children of today with their heads stuck in tablets and games players. On one side, I marvel at this advance in technology and how they use it, on the other side, I worry.
Every generation has something they regret. The generation before me was smoking. My generation is obesity. I worry that this generation is about the lack of social interaction and having your head down at a screen rather than talking.
Again to be clear, I love technology and I am as guilty of this as the next person—just ask my friends. But I am recognizing that this is the case and am making a resolution to change.
So please, finish this post. Make your comment about how I am a hypocrite who muddles up your screen with musings about how we spend too much time reading posts on a screen, and power off.
As Turk says, ‘look up’ and engage the world that is going on around you. Share your status update with your actual voice to the stranger next to you in line. Say what you have to say in more than 140 characters. In fact, use as many characters as you want! Tell someone you like him or her out loud and smile with your 3-dimensional face instead of an animated emoticon.
Most of all live your life.
|Colin Shaw is founder & CEO of Beyond Philosophy, one of the world’s first organizations devoted to customer experience. Colin has been recognized by LinkedIn as one of the top 150 Business Influencers in the world. He is an international author of four best-selling books on Customer Experience. Colin’s company, Beyond Philosophy provide consulting, specialised research & training from our Global Headquarters in Tampa, Florida, USA.
Follow Colin Shaw on Twitter: @ColinShaw_CX