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Handshake Drugs #11: Generation Screen-Obessesed

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Hey there! Sorry I fell off the blogging bandwagon there for a second! Things got hectic!

But good news, I’m back and also we have a new AB website in the works for you that will be so blogged-out you won’t know what to do with yourself.

Speaking of which, in this blog post I get really hippy about over analyzing how people are receiving information these days. Here goes…

How many times have you caught yourself face to face with a colleague/client/friend talking about something and telling them to “email it to me”. “Yeah, just Facebook it to me,” or, “Just put that in a email please.” I fall into it all the time.

Shouldn’t we just really be saying, “I don’t want to try and remember what you’re saying”?
“I don’t like the sound of your voice, just deliver this in text”?
“I don’t care enough to actually have a conversation with you and remember this in 4 seconds”?
“I have too many other emails coming in on my blackberry that I can’t even hear what you’re saying to me”?


I have fallen in to this habit and I’m sure I’m not the only one. Heavily relying on digital delivery instead of human interaction is the common thing to do. In fact, going as far as evading human interaction and translating it into digital is the norm. I realized that this might not be the best thing for my business a few months ago and have tried aggressively to reverse this. It occurred to me that when I’m talking to my clients or staff they want to hear from me. Not me inside their computer screen. They want feedback, they want me to show I care and am interested, they want to bounce ideas back and forth. These interactions almost seem foreign in this day and age where we’ll quickly choose email over a call or meeting.

Well I’m going to take a stand. I want people to know when they tell me something I AM going to remember because I DO care. This is hard though. My response? Email it to myself. I do this anywhere from 50-100 times a day. Sending myself small tidbits of things to remember or ideas. It works though. When I sit at my desk I actually put these things in to action.

But it leads to another issue. Whenever I am around human beings and we are making plans and hanging out and discussing things I am sending myself notes on my little blackberry screen to my larger desktop screen. It’s not a big deal because most of the people I’m around have their face buried in their little screens themselves. We barely look at each others faces anymore, we’d rather look at our small silly screens in our hands.

Now why do we prefer this message of communication so much more than speaking one on one?

It could be our obsession with control. On a email or text you can decide whether or not to answer, you can research something before you reply, you can fake it when you don’t know what to say… Now that’s security. Email/texting has given us the security that being a real life human being dealing with another real life human being never left room for. God forbid someone were to turn to you and ask you a question you totally didn’t understand or you didn’t want to answer. Then you would have to say “I don’t want to answer that question” or something even more awkward.

Some might say it is a matter of efficiency, but don’t let them fool you. Let’s break it down with a anecdote from my youth:

Sari: “Hey Mom, can I borrow the car on Friday?” (4 seconds)
Mom: “You’ll have to email me about it Sari” (3 seconds)
Sari: sits down and sends email (10 seconds)
Sari: “Hey Mom, did you get my email about  borrowing the car tomorrow?”  (5 seconds)
Mom: “Oh did you send it? Can you forward it again?” (3 seconds)
Sari: forwards email (2 seconds)
Mom: replies (3 seconds)
= 30 second exchange spanned over 4 days.

vs the alternative:

Sari: “Hey Mom, can I borrow the car on Friday?” (4 seconds)
Mom: “Yep” (1 second)
= 5 second exchange spanned over 5 seconds

Another reason why we might be obsessed with emails is because we always want to have a paper trail. You never know when you might need proof from some contents in an email that you are in the right. If everything is on paper you can always prove someone wrong. This also means that the slim-sters out there have learned that not emailing something and making deals over the phone or face to face will benefit them hugely because if you don’t have an email to prove the deal was made then it must not have been. Here say now holds no weight, only emails can be trusted.

If we trained our brains to retain information I think we would be truly surprised at how much they could hold. Instead we treat them like babies (our brains) and rely only on the several screens we have surrounding our day to day life. Now, I’m no hippy, I understand how important these screens are to aspects of my life and everyone I love’s… but I think somewhere along the way we let them actually become us and we stopped knowing how to talk to people. And I miss talking to people and relying on my brain to remember things.

We’re just waltzing around with small screens by our side at all times to remind us who to be and what to say. When we actually do have to talk to people (I’m sure there won’t be much of that in 200 years from now) we are staring at our screens the whole time anyhow. When we’re at concerts, on the subway, everywhere…  Soon our screens will meet up for lunch and go out for coffee dates with each other.

Now this leads me to my next concern. If we’re all so screen obsessed are we enjoying where we are? Are we seeing the small beauties of our hometowns? Are we paying attention to the art and the people around us? Probably not as much as we used to. Will this result in people caring less or only working hard at projects they can filter through screens to be delivered effectively to people. Well, it’s already happening. If it’s not digital, it’s not profitable.

In the workplace, it’s common that you work with people daily and you’ve never even seen their face in real life. Of course you’ve seen their Facebook profile pics but you’ve never seen them smile. You would call these people your work buds or acquaintances but wouldn’t recognize them if you were standing beside them in a line up. That’s some huge disconnect. You can sit alone in a room all day staring a screen and feel like the most popular person in the world thanks to social media. Are you the most popular in the world though? Probably yes. We’re at a crossroads where people who used to be called popular because they actually knew a lot of people are replaced by people who actually don’t KNOW that many people, except for on twitter.

So we see how this affects our work relationships but what about our romantic ones? They’re not off the web. Most of them live in cell phone text message conversations. We’ve all been there… daring-ly texting at 4am the things you didn’t have the balls to say in person. Can you fully fall for someone after just texting and IMing them a lot? Probably. You could probably have a whole relationship without ever meeting. Well you would need to have sex.

Which brings me to my final conclusion…
Thank god for sex. Sex is the only thing you can’t do via digital screens (at least not properly). So we’ll always have that, I hope.

So there we have it, we are turning in to our computers. How do you feel about it? Okay? Not so Okay? leave your comments below friends!

Thank you for reading!
– Sari


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