Wednesday, July 2, 2014


by Emmanuel Kuehn

In the ''old days'', long before the appearance of Social Media, the only way to contact or connect with people was to meet in person, talk on the telephone, or even to write a letter. Although people still meet and connect in this manner, it can seem a bit "old fashioned" given today's context and new media tools.

Did we lack something or did communications suffer?

It is my sincere belief that we did not. We conducted our affairs they way people had for years, literally with each other in real time. Relationships between people were more concrete and sincere. Why?

In business, it was done starting with a glimpse, a firm handshake, a look and shared conversation. One was in daily contact with prospects and customers. Not by letter, but via direct visits, appointments, and even telephone calls. Whichever way we chose, it was a direct relationship with mutual goals. Of course, there were misunderstandings. People are people. However, it was easier to dismiss misunderstanding and to build a consensus.

Was business easy?

It certainly was easier, when compared with the prevailing habits and changes of today. At that time one probably knew what communication was. In my view, this approach was more ''human'' and really "social".

Since the explosion of Social Media, communications between firms and individuals is more complex. Although technology allows us to talk via video conferencing to someone on the other side of the world, is it really communications as we understood the concept before?

The context of social interaction has impacted on our knowledge. The principal of networking has moved into another dimension. For example, your average teenager has hundreds of Facebook "friends", whereas before one had really a handful. The "digitalisation" of friendship has altered the concept and bonding between individuals. Real friends can usually be counted on one hand.

Communicating with friends is done today via coded language. It is much easier to say, "I love you" via a SMS or a chat message. Due to unclear communication via SMS or chat, many misunderstandings are tough to solve.
Young people move less because they do not need to go towards each other. Everything comes to them on their computer screen. They spend hours glued to their screen with a smart phone in one hand and the keyboard or joystick in the other.

Today, Social Media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Viadeo, FourSquare, and Google Buzz can be used to communicate the person's actual location and to inform "the world" that you are drinking a Starbucks coffee on a terrace because the sun is shining. People literally flood the web with information that doesn't interest anyone except the people who have nothing better to do than spend hours exercising the dexterity of their fingers on a computer keyboard or smart phone.

Where is the emotional communication between people?

Where is the real exchange and interaction? Virtual communication dominates our social interaction. The end result is a generation "social network" junkies.

In the business world, many people are travelling less in order to cut costs. Meeting clients in this context might seem more efficient, but the human bond is clearly absent. It is so much easier to send business relations an email or SMS.

My fear is that the "human" side of the equation will suffer as a consequence. Extensive Social Media has a function, however is it as effective as we think?

We have become willing "slaves" of a system that actually creates a huge gap between people. The real purpose of Social Media platforms should be to bind people with each other. After all, the human race is by definition, social. As social beings, we aim to exchange and share ideas in order to broaden our understanding and awareness.

What is the point of having so many social network "friends"? Are we just collecting marbles like we did when we were kids? Are we not blind to reality?

Real communications whether in business or socially should be to bond and meet as genuine individuals. To share a mutual goal or project requires contact. Social media should be seen as tools to supplement and foster the original ties not the other way around. The famous introduction and handshake adds a dimension which I feel is now being made redundant. And it will be our loss, if the two are not used in tandem.

We are in a transition period. Evolution does not necessary mean improvement. Within a few decades, we may even see a return to more traditional values and "old fashioned" ways of relationship building. After all, if we take the hottest musical trend of the return to vinyl as a metaphor, anything is possible.

As a human being we owe it to ourselves, colleagues, clients, and even to our children to foster the ties that count in forging a bridge between tools and the sincere interaction which can only come when we look into the eyes of another human being.

What do you think?

About The Author

Emmanuel Kuehn is a Management Consultant, Business Coach & Trainer for both corporate organizations and individuals.

Business Is A Matter Of People
Emmanuel Kuehn | WisePoint B.V.