Brodeur Partners hosts a team of student interns every summer. This year, we asked two of them to weigh in on growing up in the digital age and how it prepared them for a dose of the working world. This is the first of the two blogs, from Matthew Roberts, a student at Indiana University.
Matthew Roberts, August 2016
I studied abroad this past spring in Sevilla, Spain, and obviously was unable to speak in person with most of my friends and family for the entire four-month semester. But this is the digital age, so I used Facetime and video chat to stay in touch.
I ended up not buying a phone plan, so all these calls required Wi-Fi. Around once a week, I would call my parents from my dorm room. I spoke with friends a little more sporadically, but it was the same deal. It was as easy as pressing a button while sitting in bed, and I could see and hear whomever I wanted. It got slightly tricky talking to people back in the U.S. with the time change, but besides that, Facetime made talking to everyone far more convenient, and far more personal than texting.
These chats were usually small updates about what I had been up to, and how things were back in the states. It was nice to be able to see the people I was missing, especially when I was talking to my family because I would get to see my dog, who was a little bit harder to stay in touch with while I was gone.
Since I’m a Millennial, the Facetime and video chat from Sevilla should have satisfied my need to connect. We live in the digital world, right? Our faces are constantly glued to our smartphone screens.
But I learned during that four months that even the best of digital communication can’t replicate the feeling and emotion that face-to-face interaction has. The momentary lapses in time, needing to repeat things, and even the delay between responding and when the other party hears you all play a factor in the disconnect that becomes more and more apparent when compared to in-person communication.
Unlike in-person communication, where you can “feel” the conversation, video communication seems almost like you’re going through the motions of a conversation, without the connection provided face-to-face. I loved what Facetime provided, but it was no match to seeing my family in person. When I finally got back, I felt as though I hadn’t spoken to my family in months. There really are aspects of in person communication (many that we take for granted) that digital communication cannot replicate.
Video would essentially need to perfectly mimic all aspects of in-person communication before it could ever replace it. Even with high-quality video, there is still a delay in the feed (albeit brief). The slight lag creates a disconnect between the parties that can change how everything is perceived, and how one responds to information.
In Brodeur’s relevance model, the advantages of face-to-face communication address the sensory quadrant. In-person conversations give you a more complete understanding of the situation because you can read the other person and feel their emotions. Understanding the client and their thoughts is an important part of conducting business. Modern businesses that wish to stay relevant will use digital communication to its fullest extent, but also grasp the importance of face-to-face meetings. Digital video is a great way to maintain ties clients, but as a bridge between face-to-face meetings, never a replacement.
I grew up watching the drastic changes that swept through cell digital communications. Going from flip phones to the iPhone was a massive technological leap. I understand how much better digital communication has gotten during my lifetime, let alone the past 10 years. Yet in this world where technology advances by the minute, we have a long way to go before digital communication can ever fully replace a good old fashioned, face-to-face conversation.
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