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How Text Messages and Social Media Devalued Personal Communication

Let’s use social media and mobile devices to facilitate, instead of replacing, authentic personal communication

black woman textingWe live in a world of mobile devices and social media, text messages and status updates. Thanks to amazing advancements in communication tools and technologies, we are sharing and accessing ever-increasing volumes of information. We can actually measure our communications influence over hundreds of thousands—even millions—of people, all over the globe. However, in all the ways that matter to developing quality personal and business relationships, many of us are more disconnected than ever. We communicate, but we are losing our sense of genuine connection with others. This bodes ill for our relationships, both business and personal.

Before you dismiss this perspective as merely the typical lamentations of the generation that once thought of nationwide phone service as the epitome of communication technology, hear me out. I absolutely appreciate how advances in our ability to move information in larger volumes and faster than ever has helped to drive economies, transform industries, create new job and business opportunities, and even new wealth. In fact, such innovations made Black Enterprise’s evolution from a single magazine publisher to a multiplatform media company both possible and even inevitable. Though I don’t claim to understand or appreciate the nuances of social media, I am proud to know that Black Enterprise is recognized among the best media companies at using its influence to serve and inform, dramatically extending the reach of our magazine, television, Web, and live event content.

However, it is important to recognize that phone texts with smiley-face symbols are poor substitutes for a handwritten note, a sincere hug, or a firm handshake. Moreover, our increasing reliance on texting and other less-than-personal communication has resulted in less civility, courtesy, and consideration of others. For example, too many people (including politicians, athletes, and other public figures) choose to publicly blast one another via Twitter or Facebook, rather than speak with one another directly to personally iron out their differences. We are becoming more detached even from our loved ones, as communication via cell phones and tablets replaces more intimate, engaged, and personal conversation, even at family reunions, vacations, and the dinner table.

I often say that all business is personal, and that whoever builds the best relationships wins. Similarly, there can be nothing more important on your business agenda than establishing and maintaining healthy personal and family relationships and enjoying real communication with your loved ones. At the end of the day—or more to the point, at the end of your life—this is what truly matters. I am more convinced of this since the passing of my beloved wife, Barbara.

Social media and mobile communications are not going away, nor should they. But we can be wiser in our use of them. Let’s use them to facilitate, instead of replace, authentic personal communication in both our business and personal lives. Have more real conversations and fewer extended exchanges of text messages. Value opportunities to look people in the eye and really listen. Resist the urge to glance at your mobile device. Text fewer heart symbols; instead, call to say “I love you” more often.

When in the company of a friend, family member, or business associate, have the courage and wisdom to turn off your devices, if only for a few minutes. Honor your friend by being fully engaged and present. Trust me: the world won’t end. And all of us, especially you, will be the better for it.

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