A national study by the child advocacy group Common Sense Media found that 49 percent of respondents ages 13-17 preferred face-to-face communication over texting (33 percent) and social media (7 percent). In fact, more than one in three young people said social media cuts into the time they can spend with friends, and nearly half said they were annoyed when others were checking or updating their online status during face-to-face time.
That’s not to say communication platforms such as Facebook are going the way of print newspapers anytime soon. Some 75 percent of the survey’s respondents have profiles on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or MySpace, and most felt social media helps them stay connected with friends and family.
But as someone who has heaved more than a few deep sighs at people who insist social media is, and will be, the go-to tool to communicate, I’m feeling a bit vindicated.
Don’t get me wrong: Social media will continue to be a very powerful and effective tool for communicating with key audiences. Those who ignore it do so at their peril. But effective communication means being strategic with its use.
I look at the “all social media all the time” mantra the same way I view “let’s put out an email” or “let’s do a brochure.” Communication is all about creating a dialogue that is meaningful and effective with the group you’re trying to reach. If I need to reach out to a group of older retirees, posting something on Twitter isn’t going to be effective. If I need to get employees excited and engaged in a project, they need to see and hear that I’m excited, that management is engaged—and that takes more than a blog post on the intranet.
I remain a firm believer in the value of face-to-face communication. I can write an impassioned email on a topic, but until my audience sees that passion in my eyes and has the opportunity to ask me questions, hear my response and perhaps challenge my perspective, I’m not really engaging in communication, i.e., a two-way, interactive relationship. Regardless of the tool you use, that’s the foundation of true communication.