The Upside… we are more connected
Families divided by distance is a common hallmark of living in a global village. If it wasn’t for Facetime, my children would only see their grandparents once a year. Consequently, the ability to keep in touch with old friends and loved ones is one of the many benefits of a connected world. Working in remote regions or ‘offshore’ no longer means long periods of isolation without speaking to your partner, children or friends. Easy access to information has spurred new conversations and change in many nations which were previously closed off to the outside world. A recent study looking at the ‘revolutionary’ effects of social media found that in countries without a free press, social media provided an essential outlet for political discussion and ideas. Many would see these as the benefits related to our hyper-connected state, and I would agree.
The Downside… we are more connected
A quick ‘google’ search provides several counter-arguments to the many benefits of being connected. Studies have shown that exposure to digital devices can be addictive in children (and adults), and although not all children react in the same way, taking away digital devices may cause withdrawal-type symptoms. Recent long-term studies have demonstrated the adverse effects Facebook can have on well-being. Even our workplace connectivity can affect us. In the spring of 2017, MIT Sloan management review talked about The Heavy toll of Always-on Technology
and how it increased workplace stress and decreased efficiency. The article suggested technology-free hours and technology-free zones in the office would help in reducing the symptoms of hyper-connectivity. We are aware of the problem, but it is a challenging one as hyper-connectivity effects, everyone, slightly differently.
The risk to organisational resilience
Communications and learning play an important role in organisational resilience. As such, you may expect the smartphone boom to contribute positively to resilience. However, we are often reminded its not the quantity but the quality of information we absorb that is important. Death by Information Overload and The Heavy toll of Always-on Technology
remind us; smartphones, distractions and information overload are real aspects of a hyper-connected world. Distractions in the workplace affect productivity, as our mind must spend time sifting information that has little to no relevance. While multi-tasking was an essential skill in the nineties, being able to ignore distractions is more useful today. Organisations that provide guidance for individuals will see an increase in resilience as people focus more on horizon issues and spend less time sifting through useless data. If you are concerned about your organisation’s resilience, we can help to address these issues for you.
Personal resilience in a hyper-connected world
So how does all this connectivity effect personal resilience? Isn’t being connected and well-informed a vital aspect of resilience? Like with most things, too much connectivity can be a problem. A big part of what makes people resilient is their network of family, friends or colleagues. Dr.Dennis S. Charney, co-author of Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenges,
list “establish and nurture a supportive social network” among one of the ten parts of The Resilience Prescription. Personal connections increase an individual’s personal resilience by providing reliable support in times of trial.
Quality versus quantity
It’s not how many Facebook friends or ‘likes’ you have, it’s how many people are willing to be there for you in a time of crisis. More importantly, which of your 500+ LinkedIn connections and 200 Facebook friends will form part of your support network in times of need? Which ones would you expect to reach out to you in a time of crisis? Such questions can help us evaluate how many of our online connections impact our lives in a positive and supportive manner. Virtual relationships are affecting how people interact with each other, and the experts say they cannot replace real live connections. Consequently, we are losing the ability to be social on a personal one-to-one level because many of us are spending too much time online, gaming or on social media. So how do we manage hyper-connectivity?
First, disconnect digitally
First of all, we need to unplug. More and more people are choosing to “detox” from the virtual world. You may have seen posts that read “taking a few months off facebook, be back in the _______” or “deleting my account now if you need to contact me feel free to drop by”. Even short periods of time away from our electronic devices can provide benefits, especially in the evening when our minds are meant to be winding down. Just having our smartphones in our line of sight can affect our ability to give others our full attention. Part of enhancing our personal resilience includes building healthy interpersonal relationships. While these may start online, more often than not the experts are saying they require ‘face-to-face’ time not ‘Face’ time.
Second, re-connect personally
Building relationships that will enhance our personal resilience is; part effort, part art-form. Some people are just naturally good at connecting with others. They listen intently, genuinely interested in other people, forming strong relational bonds quickly. Others need to work at developing good relationships but, the effort has never been more important. In today’s world resilience has become a critical skill that all people need, and it can be learned at a personal level, implemented at an organisational level and established at a community level but it does require steps to be taken and effort to be made. In conclusion, one step towards increasing your personal resilience is as simple as putting down your smartphone on occasion and spending more quality time with your friends or loved ones. Who wouldn’t benefit from that?
Kids and screen time: Signs your child might be addicted
Independent – The signs your child might have a screen addiction, revealed
(2017) Revolution in the making? Social media effects across the globe, Information, Communication & Society, DOI: 10.1080/1369118X.2017.1353641
MIT Sloan Management Review – The heavy toll of always-on technology
The Resilience Perscription
The Atlantic – Has the smartphone destroyed a generation
Can you connect with me now? How the presence of mobile communication technology influences face-to-face conversation quality
Shakya, H. B., & Christakis, N. A. (2017). Association of Facebook use with compromised well-being: a longitudinal study. American journal of epidemiology
Harvard Business Review – Death by information overload
The author, Jason Valette is a Resilience Consultant at 360 Resilience Ltd. 360resilience.com