Gist in Time

Posted on 06. Apr, 2009 by in community, public relations

Over the past 10 years I have watched a prediction come true. In 1999 Pat Jackson, a guru in the world of public relations who left us way too soon, said at a conference in Old Sturbridge Village that “the more reliant we become on technology as our means for communication, the more important personal, human interaction will be in building relationships.”

So in today’s high tech world of virtual relationships and online communities, who will build the bridges between us? On one hand, social networks such as Facebook have connected me to people I had lost track of decades ago. And I have a friend who honestly admits he’s more social on Facebook than in real life. The downside comes when people pay more attention to their online relationships than personal, face-to-face interactions.

Last week I drove past three high school girls walking together. Two were on their cell phones and the other was not. While the girls formed a group, they were isolated from each other. They had no chance to explore and expand their own relationships within the walking group they had formed when each was, by choice or default, operating in a silo.

In human society, we are part of many communities – large and small. Contending with multiple communities is nothing new. Growing up, my communities included family, friends, swim team, church, school, etc. And when I was in one of these communities, we focused on the people we were with. We talked. We listened. We got to know each other and learned how to interact with various members of the group. With the advent of social networking, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, cell phones, text messaging and the like, we have more communities than ever to deal with… and the competition for our attention can be overwhelming.

Technology can be a blessing and a curse to relationship building. With so many communities being able to access us in so many ways, we risk losing opportunities to meet someone new, get to know someone better, or focus on the people around us.

Life is a balancing act. And public relations will always be about building relationships. The art will be in balancing our online communities with personal face time.

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