WHETHER YOU LOVEIT or hate it, the digital age has revolutionized the way we communicate. The internet, mobile phones and email have redeﬁned the way business, friends and family interact with each other. Not so long ago, we wrote letters, visited the library, caught up with friends to share their latest holiday photo album, waited till we got home or to work to use the phone and picked up our phone messages just once or twice a day. We even did our banking in person, via a bank-book.
Today, a staggering 57% of people talk more online than they do in real life. Emailing, Facebooking, Tweeting and texting is now more common than picking up the phone, or knocking on our neighbour’s door. Globally 294 billion email messages are sent each day – on Facebook alone, every 20 minutes almost 3 million messages are sent, over 1 million links are shared and 2 million friend requests are accepted. It’s communication on a scale many of us never expected to see in our lifetime, and it’s growing every day.
The change has brought huge positives. The worldwide-web enables us to research, compare, collate and share information easily and quickly – getting answers and solving problems fast. Combine this with mobile phone technology and we are more productive than ever before.
The real beneﬁt is much more personal: websites such as Google, YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn have created powerful new communities – people are more connected, and less lonely. Business and communities from across the globe can gather and discover new ideas and possibilities, promoting equality and freedom of speech. And because opinions and experiences can be shared with the world at the touch of a button, consumers have more power than ever before and brands are truly listening.
But there’s always a ﬂipside. Recently I did research about social media (Facebook, Twitter etc) to ﬁnd out what made it so popular. One of my ﬁndings revealed that “baby boomers” and a lot of “Generation X” when reprimanded by their parents, were sent to their rooms, or were reminded that as long as you live under my roof you do as I say! Generation Y on the other hand relish the opportunity to be sent to their rooms, because at their ﬁngertips they can communicate with as many friends as they want, be who ever they want to be, and most importantly can lock their parents out, by not giving them access to this exclusive friendship club – social media is building global communities but putting our immediate community, our family, at risk.
And while quick access to our new communities mean we are never lonely, the stream of constant information and requests can be overwhelming, and can even lead to compulsive behavior – an almost ‘addiction’ to be online and accessible.
The internet, mobile phones and emails are a double-edged sword. Similar to life itself, there is no hard and fast rule to managing these changes and making digital communication work for you. It all comes down to good old fashioned common sense, to using our discretion.
Consider setting boundary’s; for example, check emails and social media at certain times of the day only – make sure you get at least a couple of hours at a time away from a ‘screen’. Create your own email and text assembly line: decide straight away if you’re going to delegate, archive or delete and only action the ones that will take less than two minutes.
When you respond, don’t shoot from the hip, think about the reader before you act. Like anything in life a healthy balance is called for. Technology has brought many changes to communication but some things must never change and that is good old-fashioned respect, patience, common sense, and discretion.
Keeping your family and finances