Face to face or Facebook?

28 Nov

Does our cornucopia of communications channels lead to restricted personal relationships?

We’re all on email, most use Facebook, many have blogs, and some are merrily twittering away. So the temptation is to communicate through screen-and-keyboard. I’m worse than most at this, being something of a social media maven and a natural introvert.

I was impressed by two students who knocked at my door yesterday. I know them both and had noted how they prefer face-to-face contact and are both quick to pick up the phone if they can’t speak to me in person. I’m searching for a pattern in this, but since one of these students is Greek and male, and the other is British and female, I don’t have enough data to go on.

But I do know that personal is best and that everyone must have preferred channels for personal communications. Mine would go something like this:

  1. Face-to-face
  2. Hand-written card or letter
  3. Phone
  4. Text message
  5. Blog comment (though not for private conversations)
  6. Facebook message
  7. Personal email
  8. Work email

I’m guilty of not doing enough personal communicating myself (I don’t look forward to writing Christmas cards). But I do recognise its value. And I’m looking forward to meeting two ‘friends’ for the first time at next week’s Don’t Panic Guide to Social Media in Manchester. I’ve known of Tom Murphy since 2002 when we both started blogging about PR, but we’ve never met in the flesh. And I’ve been impressed enough with Simon Wakeman to entrust him with the technical aspects of Behind the Spin magazine, again without ever having shaken hands.

Andy Green, who I have met at several public forums over the years, has written a book on this: Effective Communication Skills for Public Relations.

7 Responses to “Face to face or Facebook?”

  1. Simon Wakeman 28/11/2008 at 2:05 pm #

    Hi Richard,
    Looking forward to meeting you properly next week too!

  2. Wayne Larson 28/11/2008 at 8:54 pm #

    It is interesting to see how technological advancements have increased the value of non-technological communication.
    Last week I listened to a senior account executive of Entercom Communications Corp. tell my class his best suggestion to aspiring sales representatives is to write thank you letters to all the clients, both prospective and current, you meet in a work day.
    I was personally blown back by this suggestion, yet at the same time very inspired because I am a student who continuously worries personal communication will become obsolete due to technological advancements in communication and business.
    Business is certainly not done how my grandfather used to do it, but I think there is something to be said for maintaining some of those “old fashioned” business techniques.

  3. juliebest20 29/11/2008 at 12:18 pm #

    Read with interest your views on how we are moving to keyboard and screen for communication. We are all guilty of taking the easy option and communication on-line rather than picking up the phone, meeting face to face, writing a letter – what’s that these days? Yet how much do we appreciate someone doing those exact same things and we being on the receiving end. I love a “proper” letter, the unexpected friend ringing up for a chat and the rich experience of face to face conversations.
    We tend to blame our manic lifestyles and how easy it is to type an email as a quick fix to be in touch. To be truthful we are getting lazy, it involves setting aside time to do these things and making the effort. Technology should enhance our communications but not replace the rich medium of “real” communication.

  4. Sherrilynne Starkie 29/11/2008 at 2:28 pm #

    Richard, my colleague is going to Don’t Panic. Keep an eye out for charlie@strivepr.

  5. Susan RoAne 30/11/2008 at 8:18 pm #

    Will Face to Face communication be replaced by (what my assistant calls) UP IN YOUR FACEbook? Gosh, I hope not. In fact, more than hope, I wrote Face to Face: How To Reclaim the PERSONAL TOUCH in a Digital World to provide some strategies, ideas, anecdotes and how-to’s so that we maintain our interpersonal skills. We need to start using those cell phones with all those free minutes to actually talk to people. There is something that happens organically in a two way conversation where we can “hear” cues, that doesn’t happen on screen.
    As predicted by a Harvard professor in the 1980’s, success will belong to those who can talk to other people. Doing so face-to-face allows us to see the visual cues that are so important.

  6. Ben Proctor 01/12/2008 at 5:52 pm #

    Hi Richard. Thanks for this post. It chimed with half a thought that had been floating around my mind since 4 November and helped to make a new post http://www.likeaword.co.uk/2008/12/obamas-campaign-proves-that-face-to.html

  7. Andrew Macklin 02/12/2008 at 4:12 pm #

    I couldn’t agree with you. I am just starting to grasp this whole concept of social media, and while I can certainly see the value of it, I can’t help but yearn for face-to-face contact.
    I think what this whole social media thing lacks in the demeanour and facial reactions that we try to read during the face-to-face communications. The journalist in me wants to see those reactions, and not through the eye of a webcam.
    I can embrace social networking, but it will always play second fiddle for me.

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