I’m not doing email, I’m relating with people

I’m not new to digital technology for communication. I’ve been on social media now for at least 15 years. Starting with Facebook in Feb 2006, followed by LinkedIn in 2008, blogging, Twitter and then Instagram. I’ve had a personal email account since about 1994, and I’ve been using email in a work context since about 1992.

Digital technologies (like social media and email) get a bad rep(utation) many times as a waste of time, a distraction, even a relationship challenge.

To be fair – there are practices in using these technologies that can be examined, and found wanting. The same could be said for pen and paper technology. And maybe the scribes who used clay tablets had reasons to complain too.

When I consider that only 150 years ago my ancestors might have been limited to a few books on their shelf, a few years in a school classroom, a few visitors to their town, a few-page newspaper, and a social network with a totality of a couple of hundred people whom they met in their daily lives or corresponded with … then I live in a knowledge rich world fuelled by a diverse range of interesting people spread across the globe.

If I lived back then, I imagine I would have spent a chunk of time in written correspondence. In current times, I see myself spending time in correspondence, particularly each day in business. The technology that enables that correspondence is diverse and multi-channel (including social media, email and collaboration platforms). I don’t consider I’m spending time with tech, I consider I’m spending time corresponding (or in the exchange of communications) with others.

I see myself as an active participant, contributing to a dialogue – not a passive consumer, listening to monologues. And this makes a big difference in how connected I feel and the quality of engagement.

It’s been my experience that there is much good in my digital communication – be it via email or social media. Goodness like …

🌿 I have a channel to express myself, and live a reality like a journalist, observing and ‘reporting’ on the world as I experience it and how it’s presented to me.

🌿 I am exposed to ideas, perspectives, that I wouldn’t find via other means. They come in multiple forms of articles, micro posts, blogs, videos, podcasts, cartoons, music, poetry, stories, and puzzles. I receive insights by being in the flow of a breadth and depth of discourse. My knowledge is extended and my thinking is challenged.

🌿 I get to partake in conversations and social exchange with what I and others share. I can be an amplifier for their thoughts, as they can be an amplifier for mine, and the ripple effect and reach is expanded.

🌿 I get to have a sense of connectedness with a community others, to learn how others think and perceive, as well as learning about my actions and disposition through the reflection of their responses.

🌿 I get to be interested in others and their lives. And I get to be interesting and reveal different aspects of myself so that others might have meaningful ways to connect to me. I’m satisfying a hunger to appreciate and understand my fellow humans.

🌿 I get to meet new people I wouldn’t meet in my normal physical world. And to strengthen existing relationships with those whom I can’t be in the same place at the same time.

🌿 I get to remain in contact lightly yet meaningfully with a large number of weak social ties – people who simply would fall under the radar if I had to do 1-1 contact all the time.

🌿 I get ideas for things to transform into value like products and services, and advice and insights to apply to my context and challenges. It enriches and expands my creative potential.

🌿 I get fuel for my emotional state and wellbeing. Importantly, because I am active rather than passive in my contributions and intentions. Studies show it is a high quality of engagement with others that is a necessary factor. In doing so, I increase my feelings of bonding, decrease a sense of isolation or loneliness, and allow myself to be seen and witnessed as part of the collective of humanity.

 

That’s a decent list of reasons.

What ones resonate with you? What reasons would you add to your own list?

May your relations be rich – even when mediated by digital technology!

 

Author

Helen Palmer, Founder of Self unLimited, has been in many workscape situations that included digital correspondence and social media platforms. She reflects on such things to offer fresh advice to help others navigate peer pressure and set useful intentions and boundaries. She’s a strong advocate for self-care, and getting practical to enable people to express their best selves at work and work effectively.

 

(Amended) Photo by Ashwin Vaswani on Unsplash

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