A very dear relative of mine recently taught me a valuable lesson and I doubt she realizes how much her conversation impacted me. I absolutely love Social Media, I love staying connected with people via text, email Facebook, Twitter and other social networks. I often assume that people, like me, have hectic schedules and don't make much time for personal interaction. In my attempt to let friends and family know I'm thinking about them, I send text messages or post on their FB wall. However, after an interesting talk with my relative, I vow to make more of an effort to personally interact with loved ones.
Here’s the real-life scenario... I attended the birthday celebration of a relative and this usually bright, bubbly, vibrant and beautiful young lady was clearly bothered. Over salad and appetizers, she shared her concern with the 15+ friends and family members that while she was glad to see everyone come together to celebrate her birthday; which was a few days prior, she was disappointed that she only received three calls for her birthday. I was initially appalled at her gripe especially since I was one of the people that hadn’t called for her birthday. She agonized over the fact that while she loved all of the FB birthday wishes, texts and emails, she longed for the sound of her phone to ring so she could hear friends and loved ones on the other end wishing her Happy Birthday.
As my relative shared more of her hurt, I actually saw the disappointment and sadness on her face and heard the pain in her voice. She was truly grieved by the lack of personal communication she received on her special day. The more she talked, the guiltier I felt at my own lack of sensitivity. My relative has close to 2000 Facebook "friends," yet on the actual day of her birthday, she spent most of the day alone. The final jolt for me was when she looked at me and said "cuz, I wasn't expecting a call from you because you always text." While I take great pride in the fact that I use the latest technology to stay connected with friends, I realize now more than ever that technology cannot replace the personal interaction and hearing the beautiful sound of voice.
Many have become so unapologetically hooked on technology as a means to stay connected that we've overlooked personal socially based interactions.I also dare to suggest that social media has made us a more narcissistic society. We're so busy sharing ourselves with the world via the Internet that we've forgotten the importance of sharing our time with people who might need it most. In the race to get the most Twitter followers and Facebook friends or join the right Google+ hangout, we're missing out on the beauty of intimate interaction with those closest to us. So while we're trying to find 140 characters that might get us a RT, or post the status that might earn it some "likes" ask yourself "who is in need of hearing my voice," "whose day can I brighten by taking the time to pay them a visit?" Before writing Happy Birthday on your friend's birthday wall, take a few minutes to call them on the phone. If you can’t steal away from your computer, take advantage of tools such as Google Voice and call friends without taking your eyes off your computer screen.
Here are some tips to help you maximize the use of technology while maintaining your personal connection with friends and family:
* Send greeting cards (not e-card’s) to friends 1x month.
* Use calendar apps to block out a few hours a month to schedule "personal chats" with friends.
* Schedule brunch dates with close friends.
* Connect at Starbucks or Barnes & Nobles to have coffee and dessert.
* Use apps to remind you of birthdays and special events - pick up the phone to share well wishes and greetings.
* Live in different cities? Use Skype or FaceTime to visually connect with friends
I'm sure you can think of other ways to stay personally connected with friends. Just think of how you stayed connected prior to social networks. I know it's difficult to imagine how we survived without social media. Every time I think about life without Twitter I break out in a sweat. But the truth is we managed. Log out of your social networks (temporarily), close your laptops and pick up the phone and dial the number of a friend. Schedule time to meet with friends just as you would schedule a business meeting. While we’re embellishing in technology, someone very dear to you might be in the need of a personal touch, a smile or the sound of your voice. That simple gesture can leave a lasting impact and brighten someone’s day.