We live in a world where information is instantaneous. Anytime we have a question, our first step is to “Google it.” (I love how Google has figured out how to turn their business into a verb.) People use the Internet for everything, because everything is at our fingertips the minute we type a word. In fact, Google is so smart that you don’t even have to finish the word and it already tells you what you’re looking for. It’s amazing. That being said, this wondrous world of instantaneous information has created an expectation of instantaneous response. We used to send an e-mail and expect a response back in 24 hours. Then we wanted it by the end of the day, and then within a few hours. If that’s not good enough we send a text and expect an instantaneous response—we even get irritated if our text isn’t acknowledged within the first five minutes after we hit Send. Wow, are we even allowed to go to the bathroom anymore? Nope. Take your phone with you!
Let me be clear. I think instant information is wonderful, and I love how productive, efficient, and effective technology has allowed business to become. However, our society has become addicted to technology and being connected to instant information. I don’t know about you, but I have literally turned the car around, driven 20 minutes out of my way, and missed a meeting, just because I forgot my phone at home. What’s really funny is that I wasn’t even expecting a call, a text, or an e-mail. I just felt naked without my phone. Yep, naked. And I was scared that I just might miss something if I didn’t have my smart phone attached to my hip. I’ve done this more than once, even though I’ve had my laptop and tablet with me the whole time. Even with all the other supporting technology, I was still freaked out that I didn’t have my trusty life companion right by my side. Interesting; I said companion. I believe that word is quite appropriate for the average person in today’s world.
In today’s society technology has become our companion. We look for love online, entrench ourselves in social media, and text constantly. It’s now okay to have meaningful conversations via text—those conversations are called textersations. The average business professional sends and receives a total of 115 e-mails per day— that’s a lot of e-mail. People spend on average 30 percent of their workday just reading and responding to e-mail. Globally, people spend an average of 16 hours per month just surfing the web; in the United States alone, that average jumps to 32 hours per month. U.S. desktop users spend an average of 6 hours every month on Facebook; mobile users 11 hours. And if you’re a gamer, you spend on average of 90 minutes per day online gaming. If you do the math, the average business professional spends up to 38 hours per week online—it’s a full-time job. And that’s just the average. If you’re above average that number may be significantly higher.
The resounding conclusion is that most people’s companion in life is their smart phone, laptop, or tablet. I’m not sure why everyone’s online looking for love; their phone is right there! Who needs human interaction? You just need Google…until you find yourself exhausted, energy-depleted, and starving for human attention; for someone to actually talk to you, look at you, and be completely engaged in conversation with you, so you can feel their energy through their voice, their eyes, or their touch, and know that you’re valued and accepted. That, my friend, is really what the Human Energy Crisis feels like. Even though we’re connected to everyone and everything, we’re starved and alone, because in actuality we’re connected to nothing human. People aren’t stopping long enough to experience the one thing that is the source of healthy energy: true human connection.
Our addiction to technology and our inability to be present are major roadblocks to attaining healthy energy because people make technology and electronic connection a priority over human connection. The solution is not to do away with technological advances, instantaneous information, and paperless operations. In fact, all of those elements are highly beneficial—as long as they don’t strip people and the business of healthy energy. If you want your business to thrive on healthy energy, and you want a healthy culture, you need to make building genuine relationships a priority over technology for everyone in the business. This means that during meetings people turn technology off and engage in conversation. Unless you’re the one taking notes for everyone, close the laptop. This means that during one-on-one conversations people aren’t texting, checking e-mails, and answering phone calls that don’t qualify as an absolute emergency. And if you’re in the building when a meeting occurs, you show up and choose to be present, rather than pretending you’re a telecommuter. If you want healthy energy, and to feel good again, you need to put human connectivity over technology—period.
I’ve had a number of clients come to me throughout the years with concerns that people on their team, their boss, or another colleague they work with just don’t seem to listen. They’re frustrated, because even though they’ve asked their colleagues repeatedly through e-mail, text, and voicemail to do certain things, or respond in certain ways, nothing happens. They feel disrespected, devalued, and unappreciated. The comment is often, “Am I the only one in this world who actually cares? Do they even know I exist?” I always ask the same question in response: “Have you talked to them? Have you had an actual conversation? You know, the kind where two people sit down, sometimes over coffee, and have a conversation?” Their response is usually the same: “No. I haven’t tried that approach yet.” So I tell them, “Actual conversations can be magic. Maybe you should try the conversation thing first, before you go too far off the deep end. If you look in their eyes, and take the time to talk with them, as though they are another human being, you may actually get the response you’re looking for.”
Gina Soleil, is a speaker and acclaimed author of Fuel Your Business: How to energize people, ignite action and drive profit. She blogs and speaks about how to create a business where people are energized, feel good and are happy. Visit Gina Soleil and follow her on Twitter. Attend Gina Soleil’s author event: The Power of Love, Suffering and Community, August 12 at Open Book.