How are we doing at personal communication in a digital age? Not so well, Sherry Turkle, a great communicator herself, feels. According to a piece in The Vineyard Gazette, she warned of "a flight from conversation" in favor of texting and email at a symposium on Martha's Vineyard recently. Ah summer, when blessed truths emerge!
"'We have the fantasy that if we're emailing and editing we can somehow get this communication right,'" Ms. Turkle said at the symposium. "But throughout the talk she returned to the idea that face-to-face conversations are where we become fully present with each other, mistakes and all, and 'where empathy and intimacy flourish.' Email and texting allow us to control our time and our words,' she said, 'but distract us from deeper connection. Even the presence of a phone on a lunch date will limit conversation,' she continued, 'because in the back of your mind you could be interrupted.' Research shows a 40 per cent decline in the markers for empathy among college students over the last 20 years, which researchers attribute to the presence of digital devices.'"
And empathy apps aren't necessarily going to restore direct human connection when it's needed most. We'll be thumbing around them, rather than communicating effectively, one fears.
It's truly important for PR people to recognize, and seek to overcome, the growing hindrances to effective personal communication these days.
Doug Bedell has a background in journalism and PR and is the owner of Resource Relations LLC in Central PA, focusing on organizational and crisis communication. He’s the community manager of SimplyFair.net, a social network on fairness. On the Web, Doug’s at www.ResourceRelations.com. On Twitter, he’s @DougBeetle.
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