Social media, emails and texting. It has become obvious to many that though these tools have many advantages, there are some negative consequences that aren’t discussed very much.
The advantages are obvious - we can keep in contact with people that we otherwise couldn’t, we can send instant messages containing text, pictures and videos from anywhere with an internet connection and we can keep up with all the latest news. These are just some of the benefits that will be highlighted if someone were to ask why we are using these tools.
However, the quiddity with advancements in technology is that we tend to stop using old tools when we pick up new ones. What once made telephoning a wonderful medium for communication is that there was a cultural expectation; if one was available they would pick up the phone and the conversation could commence; with more options to communicate, this seems to not be the case anymore. Before texting was available as another option, there were no other possible forms of quick communication.
Now in 2019, there are almost an infinite number of ways to communicate but they don’t come without their disadvantages. According to an article by Inc, Millennial's “don’t like making phone calls.” One of the main reasons given for this is that the newer tools save time and are more efficient and thus, younger people gravitate towards these apps. A huge disadvantage though, is that people are finding it harder to understand each other and more time is being wasted due to misunderstandings in text based communication.
Another disadvantage with using instant messaging as a predominant mode of communication is that it breaks our focus. Though instant messaging is very quick, people are not always immediately available to engage in conversation. According to Cal Newport, author of Deep Work, sustained focus is very valuable at work but every notification that a person checks makes it harder to work without distraction for an extended period of time. So even if somebody isn’t available, they may feel compelled to check their messages once they are aware of a notification; even if they don’t check the message, once they are aware of the notification, their focus is already broken.
Cal Newport has also suggested that most people use the ‘any-benefit’ approach to justify using a tool; it’s the ‘why not?’ mind-set, where we only look at how something can help us and give no regard to what the disadvantages might be.
Studies on communication suggest that tone of voice, inflection, volume and the pace of speech are much more important to a listener than the words being said. This suggests that there may not be as much value in instant messaging as there is with phone calls. What this also points to is that with phone calls, there are many things we are missing out on that we would experience with face-to-face communication as body language is of great significance when it comes to understanding someone and expressing oneself.
I’ve noticed this myself, quite recently.
A few months ago, I started working at PCR Digital and along with my main tasks, I’ve been screening various candidates on the phone. Recently, my colleagues and I went to Le Wagon, a coding bootcamp ranked as the world's best. At the event being held, we spoke to about 25 people that had just graduated from the 9 week course.
As a direct comparison to speaking with people on the phone, in person it’s much easier to discuss things on people’s CV’s and ask them genuine questions. It feels easier for them to elaborate on their answers face-to-face, whereas, on the phone, potential candidates tend to be more reticent. It’s easier to build a more effective and meaningful relationship when speaking with someone in person and it’s also easier to gauge someone's feelings and thoughts when you can see their face. Face and body language, according to Harvard business review, ‘speaks for us’; besides our choice of words and the volume and tone of a voice, gestures, posture and facial expressions all convey powerful messages to the people we are talking with.
Something else I have experienced is that it’s easier to remember much more about a person when speaking face-to-face; people do tend to speak more if they can actually see your non verbal responses to them, rather than just responding to a voice.
This experience has inspired thoughts of what communication at work and in our personal lives could someday be like. In technology recruitment, we could perhaps have meet ups where new and experienced people in tech could congregate and discuss their experiences and what they actually want in a new role or work environment. At these meetups, the new developers would be able to get advice on their applications/CV’s and talk with recruiters that understand the industry; they would also be able to speak with senior developers and get a feel for the people they will be interacting with on a daily basis.
If people in tech could regularly meet with the same recruiters they are likely to have more trust and would then be able to build relationships easier and perhaps begin calling the recruiters more often as well.
With making face-to-face and phone calls the primary modes of communication, we will be able to communicate more effectively and avoid misunderstandings, focus more and stop wasting each other’s time.
Its good to talk, but it’s great to meet.