Guys, sit down. We need to have a talk.
I know we all live and die by the internet. It’s how many of us do our jobs. It’s how almost all of us spend a couple hours (a conservative estimate) of our day. I’d venture to guess that most of us do not want to count the number of hours we’ve spent mindlessly scrolling Instagram. (F’reals, your author spent 1.5 hours down a Royal Wedding Black Hole this past weekend. On that note: is everyone aware of just how cute Serena Williams’ daughter is?!)
The internet is the best of times and the worst of times. It offers endless convenience and endless resources to get the hang of new hobbies or to learn about topics that pique our interest. I mean, I just learned how to dye clothes pink using avocado pits. Clearly we’re living in a golden era.
And it can be a great resource to meet new partners and friends. I know couples who have met via Instagram DMs, and am going to two Tinder weddings this summer. So the internet clearly has the ability to connect people.
But I’m here to tell you, as someone who has been hiding behind the internet for years, that communicating exclusively via social media and text messages is no substitute for real, in-person relationships—either professional and personal.
“Knowing” someone who you only communicate with through your phone is not knowing them. Seeing someone’s highlight reel is not the same as understanding who they are.
I’ve learned how true this can be in a career grounded in relationships. When I did public relations (versus my current role in operations for Sprocket), media relationships were my bread and butter. They mattered, not only in the way that relationships generally matter to humans (i.e. they serve up social connection) but because they were crucial doing my job.
And to be honest, I wasn’t that good at the relationship piece of it. Because I mostly conducted these “relationships” via email and text. I would briefly chat with media at events. Enough to get by, but not enough to build reciprocal relationships.I chalked this up to being an introvert and to being busy.
But everybody’s busy, and introverts still need human connection—they just need more solo time to regain the energy spent socializing. What I was really doing was what many of us find ourselves doing behind our iPhone screens and laptops: hiding. Pretending we’re giving to relationships without having to actually put that effort in. Without having to be vulnerable.
And, sure, not everyone’s going to be your best friend, certainly not when your relationship is grounded in career and necessity. But wouldn’t it have been a nicer way for me to spend time at media and work events being engaged with people than to be just putting in the time, waiting for it to be over? (And, practically speaking, it would have made my job easier, too.)
It goes for personal stuff, too. Can we stop cancelling plans and acting relieved, and just pretending our way through friendships via Instagram DM? Pretty please?
So here’s my challenge to you all, and to myself: let’s stop carrying on relationships through our phones. Show up to the networking event; honor the plans you’ve made. Of course we’re not going to delete our Instagram accounts (no one is that strong!) but relationships grounded in real life are the kind of relationships that can stand the test of time.