Updated: Mar 25, 2020
I almost don't dare to say it but here we go: Get your eyes off this screen and go offline. Yes, I challenge you to disconnect. I know, I'm looking at my screen writing this article and I bet you're looking at a screen right now, reading my words. But what I really want you to do is to forget your phone or laptop, lift your head up, take a look around. Find someone to talk to, make a real connection. Leave the digital world behind, just for a few moments. See how it feels.
(if there's no one around, ok, you can continue reading this article)
Let me challenge you: Count the apps on your phone that allow you to interact with other people. Guess what: I have no fewer than 23 of them! (let me know your number in the comments). I can't say that there's a shortage of ways to get in touch with me. There are plenty of digital solutions out there to connect all of us. Privately, we use WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram, professionally we're glued to LinkedIn, Skype and not to forget: good ol’ e-Mail. In the workplace, we're also asked to collaborate (it's good for the business!) so employers introduce Slack, Trello, Workplace by Facebook or Beekeeper. All for people to chat, post, like and comment until their fingers bleed.
With all those options at hand, we should be all set up to truly connect. But be honest - do you feel that we're getting closer to each other? Do we have the great, meaningful conversations and form trusted relationships with our fellow human beings? I dare to say we don't. Or at least maybe not as much as we used to. It almost seems as if with all those digital options at your disposal, there is no time to actually talk to someone. To look up from the screen for a quick chat with a colleague. To ask someone how they are and really listen to the answer. To put down the phone during dinner with our loved ones.
I'm by no means old-school. If there's new technology that promises to enrich my life, I'm among the first to embrace them. But Johannes, wake up - the click of a 'like' button doesn't make me good friend, it doesn’t even get me an inch closer to the people. A quick chat on Skype may be useful to solve an immediate work problem - but it does nothing to really get to know each other. So how about a coffee and an exchange of free-flowing speech? Or, if people are far away do that strange thing people used to do a decade ago: give them a call. I feel that most new online solutions out there simply provide one more excuse to stop talking to each other. How can it be that what is meant to bring us together actually creates a distance?
Here's a solution. I believe that we should make use of these new tools and take them up on their original promise: To make new, real connections. Let's use the online to go offline.
Let me challenge you one more time. I dare you to catch up with one of your online friends for the first time in real life. Whether that's a LinkedIn connection, a co-worker from a different department or that Facebook friend you've never met.
If you do, an amazing thing will happen: suddenly this one-dimensional, static relationship transforms. It takes shape, gains colour and character. What was just a few symbols on a screen before is now an actual, living and breathing person. A person with a bright smile or a sceptical frown, with deep fears or high hopes, a mischievous grin or infectious laugh. This someone can grow into a person you trust with your secrets, you respect for their knowledge or tap on for ideas. They may become a trusted advisor, a helpful mentor or even a close friend. Whatever it is - this won't happen in a chat window.
I dare you to go offline. Tell me about your experiences. I accept comments here but better share them over coffee (you know a real one, not in the coffee app you downloaded). My treat.
About the author: I'm a human resources entrepreneur, consultant, speaker & learner with 12+ years of experience working in Germany, Singapore and Hong Kong. You can find me discussing people topics in client meetings, HR conferences or my favourite coffee shops in Singapore.