Has Digital Culture ruined our ability to communicate?
Has our ability to communicate changed?
In this social media, digital culture driven world we live in there are 1.35 billion active users of Facebook, 284 million on twitter and our daily use of email at work is something akin to being on an intravenous drip. It’s something we rely on too heavily for business communications. I see people on my daily commute to work with their heads buried in their phones checking the latest news or Facebook status, while others are chained to their devices via headphones. This makes for a very quiet bus smattered with only a few face-to-face conversations, can we still communicate with each other other than via our smart phones?
Our mobile phones are taking over
Even in environments that were once quite social places, like restaurants, I see smart devices being used at the tables – what happened to conversation? Are we losing the ability to communicate with each other and is this being brought in to our work life via an over use of email? A report by the Radicati Group (Email Statistics Report, 2013-2017), stated that “Email remains the go-to form of communication in the business world. In 2013, business email accounts totaled 929 million mailboxes. This figure is expected grow at an average annual growth rate of about 5% over the next four years, and reach over 1.1 billion by the end of 2017.” Surely email as the dominant form of business communications is ripe for disruption…?
Should I send that email?
It may be easy to send an email, a safe place to hide behind when giving constructive feedback or when asking for some action on an issue. But do you really need to send that email to all those people? And are you sending it to a raft of people to cover yourself if the issue doesn’t go away – to show you’ve asked for help? Or should you just get out of your chair and go and speak to the one person who can probably help you – and get the issue resolved that way. Are you just being lazy? And if so, are you being physically lazy as well as lazy about whether the matter is resolved so that business can resume as usual?
Get out of your chair and breaking the email cycle
Nothing beats a face to face conversation. It’s hard to misinterpret unlike an email where “tone” is easily lost or mis-applied. Take responsibility to break the chain of email and call or go and see the person you got the email from. As leaders, we need to spot this behaviour in ourselves and others by calling out the email cycle and devising a plan on how it can be broken.
What can you do?
Try a day a week without sending internal email or, alternatively, pick up the phone or go and have a coffee with your intended recipient. Or, try engaging with the intended recipient by way of one of my favourite communication tools – the walking meeting. Look at a corporate messaging/social strategy for your business so you can incorporate an instant message solution (such as Google Hangouts or Slack.com) where a quick message can be easily sent. You may even look at using Facebook (they are currently trialling a workplace communication offering), Slack or even Yammer as a way of communicating to your whole business (rather than email).
Face to Face
Even if you have colleagues in other countries and you want to have a face to face conversation there is Video conferencing, Skype, Facetime or Google Hangout. Don’t let distance be an excuse for sending that email. Don’t get me wrong…email has its place, where some messages are best delivered by email. This is a sad reality of business. But using other tools that are familiar to users outside of the business arena may increase uptake and use. The use of social media in your personal life, if such use is anything like mine, has certainly meant a reduction in personal emails as the sharing of photos catching up with your mates is no longer carried out primarily (if at all) via email.
Any good ideas on how to get people off email/smart phones and actually talking, feel free to leave a comment below….so how do you best communicate with others…?