Digital Communication - Rick Williams

Smartphones, email, texting, Instagram, Twitter and ubiquitous digital entertainment make us feel connected to the world. In fact, this constant stimulation isolates us. 

While we have instant access to virtually every piece of data, literature, research, personality, news, etc., we are increasingly separated from what is most important in our lives – our families, our friends, and our close work colleagues.

Prof. Sherry Turkle & Rick Williams
Prof. Sherry Turkle & Rick Williams

MIT Professor Sherry Turkle studies the interface between technology and us as individuals and as a community. In her books Alone Together and Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, she describes the profound changes to personal relationships and intimacy as digital communications and entertainment have become ubiquitous.

Here are notes from my recent conversation with Prof. Turkle:

  • “I share therefore I am”
  • Human interactions have become transactions rather than relationships
  • Her MIT students want to send the “perfect email” rather than talk to her
  • Smartphones provide constant stimulation – keep us from being alone
    If you cannot be alone, you can only be lonely
  • Texting is easy. Talking is messy, difficult, inefficient, things can go wrong, could be embarrassing, could be hurtful
  • Talking is where you learn intimacy

Most of us use digital communications. But younger generations grew up with smartphones and texting and adopted communication practices, expectations in relationships and feelings of connection with their peers and parents that are very different than older generations. These different values are carried into the all the organizations where they work. We see the differences expressed by their feelings of connection with the companies where they work, their communications within the organization and their expectations of their leaders.

Different generational values create tensions within most organizations. My recent thought leadership piece,  A Multi-Generational Workforce – The Leadership Challenge, identifies steps you can take to build a high-performance team while acknowledging the value differences within the team. The full article is HERE.