Over the past 18 years of my teaching career, I have noticed a number of changes in children. Many of those changes have been extraordinarily positive. Kids are accomplishing more today at a higher rate than what was previously deemed possible. The digital world has changed education, but it has also changed kids. While they seem to be connected to the world in an instant, I believe there has actually been a shocking decline in the kind of connection that really matters – Human Connection.
The digital tools that our kids are being equipped with these days are truly amazing. There are tools that help with collaboration on projects when everyone is not in the same room. There are social media tools that allow kids to see and interact with their friends at any moment. Through video, audio, and text, our kids can share just about any idea they have with a collection of digital peers around the globe.
These digital tools not only help our kids; they also provide a huge advantage to teachers and families across America. Instant access to our children no matter where they are is a very valuable parenting tool. Sharing calendars so everyone in the class or home is on the same schedule helps ease the chaos in our lives. Having our students collaborate in the evenings without the need to travel to each other’s homes allows schoolwork to fit into their busy nights.
So, before I get into the meat of this post, let me make one thing clear. I believe that the digital tools kids are equipped with today are revolutionizing the educational experience and making life easier for parents and schools alike.
Something is missing. Kids rely so much on the digital world that the skill set of human connection has taken a backseat. We see this in so many ways. In previous posts, I have talked about how we need to develop confidence and how communication is suffering in today’s kids. You will see how those are very easily intertwined with being connected. A lack of connection is a huge factor in their inability to be effective communicators. It can appear, in their one-to-one interactions with peers and strangers, as a lack of confidence.
The art of human connection is lost in our kids. It is sad to see, as it plays such an important role in reaching goals in our world. While digital connections are very powerful, they still can’t hold a candle to the value of human interactions.
3 POWERFUL Elements of Human Connection
So what is so valuable about the human connection? What can human interactions bring to the table that digital connections cannot? I think this could be broken down into three powerful elements.
1 – WOW FACTOR
2 – AUTHENTICITY
3 – ACCURACY
Digital tools have opened the doors for connecting and collaborating with peers like we have never seen before. That digital connection has also streamlined tasks to be more efficient than ever. Unfortunately, a digital connection does not deliver the whole package of a person in the same way that a person can him/herself. It’s called the WOW factor. It is what separates you from all the rest. The ability to look someone in the eyes and engage in a conversation can only be done with a human connection. The ability to read another person’s body language and tone and then respond accordingly stems from being connected with them, person to person. A human connection allows for a WOW factor moment that will leave a lasting impression; something a digital connection alone simply cannot do.
WOW FACTOR BALANCE
Balancing between digital and human connection is the key. There are very few jobs out there that do not involve a certain level of digital competency. People who want to succeed in the world will need to be fluent with current digital tools. However, the value of human connection will never go away. To truly set yourself apart in this world and to have connections that leave lasting impressions, you need to develop a skill in the art of human connection. As teachers and parents, we need to teach this to our kids, just like any other skill. We need to put kids in situations where they can practice social interaction. They need to experience how powerful those connections are. Once they appreciate that human connection piece, they will strive for it and find greater purpose in their work.
Anyone who’s been around social media long enough knows that there’s one irrefutable truth. Everyone has a social media version of themselves and then they have a real version of themselves. Can you imagine choosing the best candidate for a job based on their social media profile? Do you have any real friends that were created and maintained exclusively through social media? I’m sure you answered “no” to both, because there is an element of authenticity that’s missing from those scenarios. The human connection is all about authenticity. If you want to truly know who someone is, you have to meet them at the human level and encourage authentic interaction. Authenticity is what I crave in my interactions with people, and I think everyone should. Social Media is great, but it has to be taken with a grain of salt. Your tribe and your true version of reality should be based on human connections. This keeps us grounded, and authenticity reciprocates.
Let’s make sure we all understand that I am not saying no one should be on social media. I’m saying that it has its place and purpose. I’m saying we need to balance our use of social media as a connection tool with authentic human connections. Social media can be a great platform to initiate a friendship or dialogue. However, if you want to take those connections to another level, there has to be a human connection. We are at a point now where elementary age kids were born with the existence of Social Media, some even had a profile before they had a birth certificate! But we haven’t taught them the parameters of that profile and that presence and they’ve gotten lost in it. As a society, we need to balance our Social Media presence with our Authentic Self, and we need to teach this balance to our kids.
I’m sure you have a personal story about how you sent a text or an email to someone and it was interpreted completely wrong. We all have that story. Some of us have a lot of those stories! It is really easy to misinterpret digital communication. The human connection almost always eliminates that tension. The human connection involves body language, oral communication, and instant clarification if something is not delivered or received correctly. The human connection allows you to stay in control of HOW you want to be interpreted. It allows the opportunity to gain insight and perspective from your interactions with others. A conversation based in real human connection is an accurate one.
We all need to be able to communicate through different digital platforms. Making a phone call or having a human connection for every issue of your life is nearly impossible. We need to know when the human connection is the necessity and when the digital connection is an accessory. How do we balance and how do we make the decisions between the two? If it can come across as irritable or aggressive, pick up the phone. If you are just delivering factual information or checking in, an email or text would suffice. If you’re not sure how the other person will react or handle the news, soften the blow by calling or meeting in person to talk. As adults, navigating the development of this new digital world, we’ve had to learn from our experiences in this department, but we have the opportunity to let our kids learn from our mistakes. We must always be mindful of the accuracy of our communications, and model that awareness to our kids.
Communication – the human connection – is the key to career and personal success.
-Paul J. Meyer
The digital life has stolen the connection value system from many of our kids. What can you do to promote the value of Human Connection? The best place to start is to simply create experiences for kids to grow. Promote Human Connections. Don’t allow your kids to sit in the back and not participate at family functions and community gatherings. Get involved and communicate. They need to take risks and leave their safety net.. Have them get experience with those that are closest and then let them venture out of their comfort zones. Model how human connections have been the key to your personal and professional successes. Guide them in determining when human interactions are necessary over digital communication. They need to value connections and practice this skill set early and often.
I would love to hear your beliefs and feedback pertaining to this post. Please subscribe below to get all of my posts. Go back and check out my original post, Something’s Missing where I kick off a series involving the C words that are missing in our students. Check out some of my other C Posts. Communication, Confidence, and Catalyst. I greatly value all opinions and arguments. Engage in the comments and help continue this discussion. I look forward to what you all have to say.
I will see you next week for our Tuesday’s with Tal post on the next C…