I think we would all agree that things are changing faster than they ever have before. Wasn’t it just twenty years ago that AOL was the hottest thing around, something we thought would last forever? Do you remember when chat rooms first came out? How about when you couldn’t open your mailbox without seeing a free CD from Netzero?
None of us can forget Napster—do you remember what happened to your computer after downloading a thousand songs at the same time? Funny, isn’t it?
Can you remember who first sent you an invitation to Myspace or Facebook? What song did you have on your Myspace page?
How about the first time you watched the video “Charlie bit my finger” on Youtube?
How about your first text message? Or even more bizarre, how about the first time your parents sent you a text message? If you’re like me, you thought it was someone else using their phone!
Here’s an interesting one: When’s the last time you looked at an album of yours? No, not your Facebook album, but a real “old school” album—you know, the kind that took you an hour to put fifty pictures together in just the right order.
You see what I mean when I say we can all agree that things are changing faster than they ever have before. But here’s something for all of us to question for a moment: Do you still prefer the human touch over the social media touch? Do different generations answer that question differently? Do baby boomers prefer the human touch over the social media touch? Do millennials prefer to communicate via text, Facebook, or the phone, or do they still value the personal touch of a one-on-one conversation?
I hear many people express mixed feelings about social media. Some love it and think it simplifies their lives, while others hate it and see it as an unnecessary complication. Why is that?
Social media and networking have connected all of us in an entirely new way. Just two years ago, a friend I used to live with at a refugee camp in Germany found me on Facebook. We had both been looking for each other for twenty years. My friend’s family had separated after not obtaining residence in Germany—the father relocated to the Czech Republic, while the son stayed in Germany and the daughter moved to Spain. Scattered to the four winds as all of us were, there is no chance we would have reconnected had it not been for the social network of Facebook.
I’m sure you have many similar stories of unlikely reconnection yourself. But even though social networks make such connections possible, nothing replaces the human touch. Social media increases the speed of communication, it’ s true—but substance and real connection both come from the human touch.
You can’t shake hands online or pat someone on the back in a text (at least, not yet). You can look at someone’s eyes on Skype, but nothing replaces face-to-face conversations.
One of the things that made Ronald Reagan such an enduringly memorable man is that he was willing to have the human touch. He never told Gorbachev to bring the wall down through a text, never wrote it on his Facebook wall, never even sent a tweet. Instead, he went to him, and they sat down and spoke man-to-man. He went and met with Gorbachev one-on-one, ensuring that a human connection was made. Maybe that’s why he won 49 out of 50 states in the 1984 election. Think about those numbers: Reagan won the majority from the democrats, the republicans, and the independents. He definitely had the human touch in his favor, to have such a broad appeal across party lines.
So if we were to analyze the battle between the Facebook touch and the human touch, speed would go to Facebook—but substance, which matters most of all, would go to human touch.
But remember, things are changing faster than they ever have before, and that too could change. The day we can connect at the speed of Facebook with the substance of a face-to-face interaction, we will have to reconsider our analysis. You may say, “Patrick, that’s impossible!” But did you really think the internet was possible? That’s the exciting part of what the unknown future holds.