How To Communicate Smarter In The Age Of Social Media

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Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.

-Paul J Meyer

I’m what most marketing people would affectionately call a “digital native“. I grew up with the internet, even though it was slow dial-up at first. When I was in middle school, my English teacher brought predecessors of the iPad mini into the classroom, and we used these to type our assignments in google docs. By the time I was in high school, I got my first laptop and was connected to Facebook and constantly exploring the web faster than my parents could say, “only one hour of internet time per day” (a rule I never followed).

You would think, being a digital native and all, that I would love everything the internet and social media have to offer. But I just don’t. I think that, in reality, just about everyone feels exhausted because of the demands of feeding the social media empires that we create for ourselves. Just today, I realized that on a regular basis, I communicate on about 8 channels/mediums. Not because I want to communicate in all of those spheres, but because I feel like I have to.

While all of these different mediums and channels provide me with an array of benefits (increasing my reach, furthering my brand, sharing jokes with friends, providing feedback to companies), I’ve noticed that it has changed the way I communicate with loved ones. And it makes me feel…distant from them.

I’ve been in a relationship with a boy that I met in high school for over 3 years, but we go to different colleges. Communication is vital to that relationship because we only see each other in person twice a month. As our use of social media and other communication channels grows, we have ended up communicating in several different platforms simultaneously, and often have multiple conversations going on at once. The result? Unnecessary stress, unnatural progressions of conversations, and communication difficulties.

I was in the middle of texting my significant other as I was doing my homework today, and suddenly I got 5-6 Skype messages. I clicked on the Skype icon at the bottom of my computer screen, and there he was again! He had put his phone down for the moment and started a totally tangent conversation on Skype, not out of some desire to derail the past conversation, but just because her could. The mere presence of all these communication channels has led to the attractive possibility of communication on any device from any platform at any moment, and each platform has advantages and disadvantages that match certain types of conversations. But I’ve been so busy lately that all of these options just become information overload. I’m unable to have one, single conversation with someone from start to finish without picking up a new one in some other app or website. A quick, non-scientific poll of my friends revealed that we’re all guilty of this issue and we all start to feel overwhelmed.

I had a moment of clarity today. When I looked at those blinking Skype messages I realized I couldn’t stand it anymore. The information in my head gets so discombobulated and mixed up when it’s coming from too many places, and it becomes harder for me to systematically sort through all the information — and effectively maintain relationships.

At that moment, I texted my significant other and said, “Do you prefer talking to me over text or Skype?”

“It depends,” he answered.

“I’m holding a gun to your head and you have to choose.”

“Text.”

And it was that simple. Now, we only communicate via text or phone calls, unless we have dire need of another platform, which so far, hasn’t happened. I still use my social media to connect with other people of course, but when it comes to my family, my loved ones, and my inner circle, I’ve begun a new process of cutting out all the extras. That way, I can easily prioritize information, based upon where it’s coming from. I know that a message from GroupMe can only pertain to a couple of possible subjects and I know that I don’t need to hurry to check a Facebook notification because it’s probably coming from extended family or that one friend from middle school who only posts Donald Trump memes.

Most importantly, I know when someone I love is trying to reach me, and I can look through my messages with people and see conversations that have beginnings, middles, and ends. It leaves me with peace of mind and it has made me a more effective communicator. Plus, I can finally delete that pesky Skype account that I’ve only used for two actual calls in the last year.

 

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