In my Business Communication class, we learn how companies are quickly adopting new ways of communicating with customers, suppliers, employees, and stakeholders. Social Networking Services such as Facebook and Twitter are opening up so many new opportunities. Companies now have “conversations” with their audiences. Companies can introduce a new product on their Facebook pages and ask their customers for their opinion, and these conversations are in real time. Companies are even using SMS such as Kakao Talk to send out coupons to customers.
The interesting thing about these new forms of communicating is that most were developed for use by individuals, not by companies. As individuals, it seems that we love to communicate with others. Blog is a great way to express yourself, share your opinions, or just update your friends and family about your life. Facebook also allows you to keep in touch and make new connections. I have reconnected through Facebook with some high school and university friends that I had lost touch with. Text messaging or other messaging services such as Kakao Talk allow you to send a short note to friends and family just to stay in touch.
While these new communication tools allow us to connect with people more often, they can also have a negative influence on how we connect with people. Whenever I go into a coffee shop, I am amazed at how many people are sitting at the same table but either talking on their phones, texting, watching videos or TV, or playing games! What is the point of meeting in a coffee shop only to talk to someone else on the phone? Part of the problem is that people don’t control their “smart” devices, the devices control the people. People feel obligated to answer when their phone rings, or to respond immediately to a text message. I recently met a student from Belgium who was visiting Korea. He had been here for about a week. When I asked him what was one big impression he had of Seoul, he said “I cannot believe how many people walk down the streets in Seoul staring at their phones. They’re missing out on the city and people around them.”
Another negative aspect to these communication tools is that we have come to believe that if we send someone a text message or post on their Facebook page, we are “communicating” with them. Nothing can replace face to face. Someone recently said to me “Nobody that has lost a loved one has said ‘I wish I had texted them more or posted on their Facebook page more.’” Stop chatting and start meeting and talking!
The next time you’re chatting with your friend using SMS or Kakao Talk, stop and ask them to meet you for coffee instead. And when you do meet, turn off your phones and just concentrate on the person you are with. Do not let your phone control you. I promise the world will not come to an end just because you miss a call or text message, and you will appreciate your relationships much more.
* Professor Marc Neufeld has an BA in Business Administration from Trinity Western University in Langley, BC, and an MBA in International Business from Sejong (Syracuse) University in Seoul.