Keep It Real

Technology has brought (and wrought) so much to our lives. So much so, in fact, that large amounts of our existence are now devoted to it. We have so much screen time offering a bombardment of news, ads, updates, task reminders, and various other data coming at us in a constant stream, that having time away from it is becoming more and more critical for living a balanced life.

What does that constant stream do to minds and bodies that have evolved for a very different world – the “real world”? We’re just beginning to learn some of the effects of a technology-filled life on our real-world selves. Clearly, along with all the good technology has brought, there are some significant downsides if we don’t consider and plan for a better balance of the physical and virtual worlds in our daily lives.

An important thing to consider is ensuring we have in-person human interaction both in our business and personal lives. People want to feel valued. It is hard to feel valued if our interactions are only in the digital realm or if the individuals we are trying to interact with are distracted by ongoing smart phone alerts and social media updates.

Just recently, my father passed away. My mother had preceded him a few years earlier. After we lost him too, it hit me that not only was I missing him, I was also missing my mother in a new way. After she was gone, my dad had been a present conduit to her, my memories, and the experiences my dad and family had shared with her. Those memories stayed in the present more when my dad was alive. With him gone, they too had fully entered the past.

This realization makes me miss others from their generation that my dad’s reminiscing of had kept freshly alive for me when we conversed. Now, I will no longer hear of “Vince Pound and his old wooden boat in Sacket’s Harbor”, a story that brings back the sound of that antique wooden boat’s engine cadence and the like.

I think real people, real human interaction and conversations are key ingredients to so much of what makes life rewarding – experiences with others, feeling empathy, love, forgiveness, friendship, shared experiences, and thankfulness. We can’t let technology suck our souls out of us. We must somehow keep keeping things real.

With both our team members and client partners, “keeping things real” needs to be a focus on the business side as well. How rewarding will our partnerships be if we all just interact with artificial intelligence and screens all day? I say this even while heading up a company that provides technology solutions for the procurement of branded merchandise. (Warning: Here comes a partial shameless plug!) I love the business we are in exactly because the product we sell is completely focused on human interplay – thanking someone, rewarding someone, incentivizing someone. That cool coffee travel mug you gave your client or team member to say, “Thank you”, in a very real way works just like those stories my dad would tell. That branded gift is a physical representation, reminding the recipient of positive events and people. When they touch and feel it, they are reminded of who it is that gave them that item and why. Every time they use it, they are reminded. Getting a physical gift is a very different experience than receiving a “Thank you” email or seeing the same Facebook ad over and over. Branded merchandise is all about hand-to-hand, face-to-face interaction. Unlike any other form of advertising, reward, incentive, or means of saying or enhancing a sincere, “Thank you”, our products work within that human interaction.

Keeping it real. I hope that will always remain important when so much interaction these days is just in the digital ether.

What are you doing to keep interactions human and real? Technology and staying-with-the-times are important, but so is keeping a human connection with those we work with both on the client-side and staff-side of the equation. As technology and artificial intelligence continue to enhance and sometimes impede on our humanness, from a business perspective, remaining human and real is going to become increasingly important in order to keep and retain both sets of people as business partners.

Being part of the physical world used to be something we didn’t even have to think about. It would be like asking a fish “What is water?”. With this growth of technology, we are now often like fish out of water. We are out of our heads, out of our environment, and in another reality altogether – absorbed in the digital world for much of our time. Personally, I quickly come to feel disconnected from this terra firma we live on (and my human essence) if I spend too much time on the digital side of things. As nonphysical digital demands more and more attention and time, I have to say that this physical world we still function in is looking mighty attractive.

I say we all double down on “keeping it real”.

The song for this post is Good Life by OneRepublic. Make it a good life. Be true. Be real.

Written in loving memory of my parents, Bill and Shirley Hanchette.