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Getting Back to Basics in a High-Tech World

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Kudos to my friend Chris Barrows on his blog for Millennial CEO, “The Lost Art of Hello.” As he states in the post, we often find ourselves in this tech-drenched life unable to unplug from our wearables long enough to engage in simple human interaction. We learned (or should have learned) basic greetings as children, but even saying the word “hello” to people has become a challenge. And this phenomenon isn’t limited to the Millennial generation who were born with earphones permanently attached to their heads—this is everybody. We’ve allowed technology to inure us to everything outside the invisible bubbles we build around ourselves when we plug into our gadgets.

I remember even a dozen years ago hearing older generations fuss about teenagers who ignore everyone around them when they listen to music or play video games. “Kids these days—they don’t look up anymore—you can’t even get them to look you in the eye or be nice!”

The problem started with technology and is growing bigger as technology progresses

Does the fact that we all carry our offices in our pockets or on our wrists suddenly make it ok not to be polite to those around us? Of course not! Being “plugged in” doesn’t mean we should throw common civility and manners out the window, yet it’s happening more and more. People have to be reminded to pay attention to the needs of others these days—to turn off their cell phones at the movies, during conferences and in the grocery line.  They make less eye contact with others in the elevator, the subway, on the street or even in the office. Have you noticed that the nod and smile acknowledgement we used to give and receive numerous times a day has gone by the wayside? Rudeness has become an accepted norm.

We’re blaming all this on technology, but it’s really more about forgetting how to be human

Tech doesn’t take it away from us, we take it away from ourselves. What’s really alarming is that there’s even a new “disorder” associated with over-use of tech known as NetBrain or iDisorder, and psychologists claim it makes one in 10 people into “anti-social, distracted narcissists.” Of the 8.4 million people living in New York, that means 840,000 could be afflicted. Wow—that’s a lot of anti-social behavior!

C’mon, people, there’s a cure for this, and it comes down to re-learning some things and setting some new standards.  Apart from breaking out the etiquette books and teaching our children the basics of manners and how to interact with people in face-to-face situations, we need to learn how to look people in the eye digitally. This is a mindset and it is up t you. It’s not difficult to do, but it does take time and effort and practice (LOTS of practice). And it’s worth every minute because it’s just unacceptable to sacrifice human connectedness on the altar of technological progress… and it will pay dividends to the people and brands who make that connection and doing so part of their corporate culture.

Relationships are like muscle tissue

There needs to be more of an effort on everyone’s part (including developers) to consciously embed human touch opportunities whenever and wherever possible. After all, technology is only useful as long as it enhances our ability to form and foster relationships with each other. The rest is up to us because… Relationships are like muscle tissue—the more they’re engaged, the stronger and more valuable they become. Besides…as far as I know, there’s no drug that will break an addiction to tech or help you avoid being a jerk. It’s up to you to break that cycle and remember to “#JustBeNice” to those around you.

Chris says he’s going to take me up on my challenge to take off the headphones and say “hi” to more people, and I look forward to hearing his results. How about you? In what ways have you put #justbenice into practice?  #RonR.

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