Dana Johnson

 Little by little, Internet and mobile technology seems to be subtly destroying the meaningfulness of interactions we have with others, disconnecting us from the world around us, and leading to an imminent sense of isolation in today’s society. Instead of spending time in person with friends, we just call, text or instant message them. It may seem simpler, but we ultimately end up seeing our friends face to face a lot less. Ten texts can’t even begin to equal an hour spent chatting with a friend over lunch. And a smiley-face emoticon is cute, but it could never replace the ear-splitting grin and smiling eyes of one of your best friends. Face time is important, people. We need to see each other.

This doesn’t just apply to our friends; it applies our business relationships and everyone around us. It should come as no surprise that face-to-face interaction is proven by studies to comfort us and provide us with some important sense of well-being, whether it’s with friends or friendly cashiers in the checkout line of Albertson’s. That’s actually the motivation behind Albertson’s decision last year to take all of the self-checkout lanes out of its stores, a lack of human contact.

There’s something intangibly real and valuable about talking with someone face to face. This is significant for friends, partners, potential employers, and other recurring people that make up your everyday world. That person becomes an important existing human connection, not just someone whose disembodied text voice pops up on your cell phone, iPad or computer screen.

While my daughter was visiting me this past weekend, her phone was constantly “dinging” with each text message she received. It had started annoying me so much, I told her to just call her friend that was lighting up her phone. She told me it was a group text to and for all her coworkers. That even though she is on vacation, they wanted to make sure she didn’t miss out on any fantasy football information, even though she opted out this year. All that interrupting for….nothing.

It seems we have more extended connections than ever in this digital world, which can be great for networking, if it’s used right. The sad fact of the matter is that most of us don’t. It’s too hard to keep up with 1000 friends, let alone 200. At that point, do we even remember their names? We need to start prizing the meaning of quality in our connections, not sheer quantity.

While technology has allowed us some means of social connection that would have never been possible before, and has allowed us to maintain long-distance friendships that would have otherwise probably fallen by the wayside, the fact remains that it is causing ourselves to spread ourselves too thin, as well as slowly ruining the quality of social interaction that we all need as human beings.

So what are we doing with 3000 friends on the Internet? Why are we texting all the time? The building of long lasting friendships and working relationships seems to be a think in the past. Let’s make the relationships that count last, and not rely on technology to do the job for us.