We're not going to eliminate technology from our lives anytime soon. Nor should we. Smart phones and social media expand our universe. We can connect with others or collect information easier and faster than ever. But they also expand our spectrum of attention. In this instance, too much of a good thing can become a distraction, even a false reality - sometimes at the detriment of our relationships.
Spreading ourselves too thin across an ever-growing number of platforms of interaction can weaken our personal bonds. We shouldn't confuse all of our social media connections with the rich personal world of real-time relationships. Granted, our hyper-connected world - even with people we rarely see or speak with regularly - can offer very valuable sources of information. They expand what you can know: you may find out about a job opening, or get introduced to someone you might date.
But getting lost in a world of too many digital connections can be very isolating. That's why when it comes to close personal connections, try to prioritize your communication methods. When possible, make the interaction face to face - especially if you need to discuss something important.
The social brain is in its natural habitat when we're talking with someone face-to-face in real time. It's picking up information that it wants in the moment. It's reading prosody in voice, emotions, and nonverbal cues. And it's doing it invisibly, doing it constantly, out of our awareness - and then telling us what to do next to keep things smooth and on track.
The problem with communicating too much via email or text is that they have no channels for the social brain to attend to. You have nothing for the orbital frontal cortex, which is dying to get this information to latch onto, to inhibit impulse and tell you, "no don't do that, do this." We're essentially flying blind.
But if you have to communicate electronically, try to create more presence in your interactions. Take a few seconds to reflect on your intention and message. Is it clear? Will the tone be misinterpreted? That brief pause can save you a lot of back pedaling and hassle for an intentionally (or unintentionally) snarky comment.
For more about the importance of attention in our day-to-day lives, watch Daniel Goleman's interview with Mindful editor, Barry Boyce.
How do you stay focused in conversations - face-to-face or online? Please share your insights in the comments section, or tweet them to @DanielGolemanEI (#focus).
This article first appeared on LinkedIn Today.