Authentic communication in a digital world

An article in The Times claimed recently that nearly 70% of teenagers shun face-to-face communication, preferring to talk to friends online. But what impact will this have?

As a business that believes in the power of authentic communication to forge lasting human connections, we often ask ourselves how digital communication might affect the way we connect with one another, what it will mean for leadership, how it might impact our mental well-being.

To start with the last of these questions, the trends are worrying. Social anxiety disorder is the third largest mental health care problem in the world, affecting about 7% of the population at any given time – and this represents an increase of 70% in the past 25 years. (Sources: Mental Health Foundation, Anxiety UK, Office of Health Economics).

It is hard not to think that the conformity pressures of social media, the proliferation of online bullying, the fracturing of concentration spells and the isolation of digital interactions must all play a part in this.

 

In terms of communication, while digital has enormous advantages in terms of reach and convenience, we will inevitably lose out on human moments – moments where, in the words of Edmond Hallowell, we are present physically, emotionally and intellectually. This is a great loss.

And in terms of leadership, how can we build trust, mobilise energy and unite people behind mutual purpose unless we show up, spend time with people, walk the floor, share stories… And for future leaders, it is more crucial than ever that young people develop strong interpersonal skills in order to start rebuilding trust in a post-truth world.

In a busy online world, finding your voice is crucial. Digital communication is easy – it was built to be exactly that – but it should never negate the challenge of speaking up, speaking out and speaking confidently, whether to a crowded room or an audience of one.

If you can turn up and communicate as your most authentic self, you stand a much better chance of making a true human connection that can bring about positive change.