Are We Communicating Or Are We Just Connected?

We live in a technological world which we are always communicating. But are we really communicating or are we just connected? At home, families sit together, texting and reading e-mail. Last night while watching TV I looked around and saw that everyone was either texting on their iPhone or playing Words With Friends on their iPads and I’m sure that my household isn’t that much different than anyone elses.

In the workplace everyone is texting during meetings where attendees pay attention to only what interests them, then spend the rest of the meeting eyes down carefully crafting an e-mail or text to someone else, and sometimes that someone else is sitting right across the table from us.

We live 0n Facebook. Teenagers today believe that texting and maintaining eye contact with someone is communication. It’s not.

We’ve got to the point that in my home texting is not allowed at the dinner table and guess what? They’re finding that they can exist without their thumbs furiously typing messages to their friends.

I’ve told just about anyone that I know to not text me, e-mail is fine but I don’t want to have to answer to text messages. Call me old fashion, that’s just the way I am. If someone does text me I will not answer it. Period, unless it’s an emergency with my boys. We’ve become accustomed to a new way of being alone together. Technology-enabled, we are able to be with one another without actually being with them. We have gotten used to the idea of being a party of one. We live in our own bubble, connected to keyboards and touch screens safely ensconced in our safe little world of connection.

In today’s workplace, young people who have grown up fearing conversation show up on the job wearing earphones. Watch as employees lay out their plethora of laptops, iPods, iPads and multiple phones. And then they put their earphones on.

In our bubble people are comforted by being in touch with a lot of people; carefully kept at an arm’s length. We keep others at distances we can control: not too close, not too far, just right. Relationships aren’t easy, they require a lot of effort, sometimes too much effort. We have learned to clean  them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference. We are tempted to think that our  online connection adds up to a real conversation. But they don’t. E-mail, Twitter, Facebook,  and LinkedIn all of these have their places But no matter how valuable, they do not substitute for conversation.

Are we shortchanging ourselves by not learning to create relationships complete with communication?

I think so.

Working More, Enjoying It Less?

Weren’t we told that computers were going to make our lives easier? Allow us to spend more time with our families? Play more golf? Take that long overdue family vacation? That was the concept, but it just hasn’t turned out that way, has it?

Those of us who are natural-born workaholics now have VPNs and other methods of connectivity that keep us tied to our laptops, iPads, iPhones, Black Berry’s. I spent a solid hour at Verizon playing with the new Droid Incredible a few weeks ago and found a new tool that will keep me “more in touch.” With over 150,000 apps there isn’t too much that you can’t do on an iPhone, iPad or even the iPod touch.

While these innovations are really cool, they keep us closely tethered to the office 24/7. We can run, but we can’t hide.

More than 10 years ago, when the work day was over, it was over. You simply got into your car, went home and didn’t give work another thought. And even if you did think of something, there wasn’t anything you could do until you arrived on the job the next day. It could wait.

Are we more productive?
But the question is this: Are we being more productive as a result of all this technology?

According to Kelly Services, “Global Workforce Index (via eMarketer) shows that no less than 78% of workers in the U.S. & Canada – across all generations – believed that technology, such as laptops and mobile phones have effectively increased their productivity. Over half of the respondents even said they felt ‘much more’ productive, and only 2% said made them worse workers.” (Slackers)

Other key findings: More than 7 in 10 workers from across the globe considered the ability to work outside of the office a ‘positive’ development, and a whoppping 87% agreed that telecommuting was an attractive benefit to any job.

In addition, 30% in North America, 33% in Europe and 41% in the Asia-Pacific region agreed that they were working longer hours because of mobile communications.

Okay, so we’re working more hours, are more productive, BUT are we making more money? Are we enjoying it more? The jury’s still out. It’s a yes and no answer, here.

While some of us may be making more money, it’s likely the U.S. government is taking more in taxes. Add additional state taxes into that equation and the disposable income level falls about 40% less than the gross amount earned.  And we have less time to enoy the extra money because we’re working longer hours!

Or as educator and author of Overcoming Time Poverty, Bill Quain puts it, “Many people are playing a work game that robs them of quality time.” Quain explains that most employees trade their time for dollars on a job. If they need more money, then they have to ’sell’ more of their time. “Soon, they spend so much time working for money they have too little time for everything else,” says Quain.

One thing is clear: The definition of work-day is growing up.  Are you growing along with it, or you fighting it?