We think that all of the modern tools that we now use every day make us better communicators or somehow make the human connection more effective but the truth is often the exact opposite.
In the beginning there was email. And, it was good. Suddenly we could efficiently create and send a “letter” or “memo” to someone far away and they could respond in near real time. In the early days we didn’t send email to the person in the next pod or office; that came much later in digital terms – I think it was on the second day.
This was like magic. I naively thought that we were on the boundary of something big…maybe even cosmic. A new age of written communication could be at hand. But, by day three of the email revolution, the world had deteriorated into a place where full sentences, capitalizing words and (God forbid) complete thoughts were forever lost. They were replaced by emoticons and other almost indescribable and certainly grammatically tragic abbreviations masquerading as thought.
Quickly following the emoticon attack was the refinement of email as the key weapon in intra-company pod wars. Now anyone with an email account could launch inane requests to his or her peers. They could use the “to” line to keep hundreds of people “in the loop” on information that the receivers did not need or want. They could launch denial-of-productivity attacks by burying coworkers and staff in messages with endless unneeded attachments, or use the dreaded “cc all” to say “thanks” to hundreds of people efficiently letting the entire company know that they had read and fully understood the mass-mailing from the IT department telling the company that a report would be delayed.
The next time you need to give someone an update or get “alignment” try that old school human trick: talk to them. You might like the result.