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A few weeks ago, I tried to connect with a woman on LinkedIn. Nothing good comes from being online, but I’m trying to meet new people. She is an accomplished leader who works for a successful venture capital firm. We have many friends in common, and her name has popped up in recent conversations.

LinkedIn seems to know this, too, because it suggested that we connect. So I did what the internet told me to do: I clicked a button and went back to my normal life. I hoped she would say yes. I wanted to follow up with a phone call.

A day later, this woman responded back to my request with a LinkedIn message telling me that she uses LinkedIn to connect with people she already knows IRL. She suggested that we use email to chat. Then she denied my request to connect.

LI FAIL

Uhm, okay.

It’s nice that she responded, but it’s also amazing how people create arbitrary rules for technology platforms and expect others to play along. This educated, talented woman took the time to decline my request, write back via LinkedIn, and instruct me to use email in the future without any consideration as to how I might prefer to connect.

What if I only use email for my personal friends and people I know IRL? What if LinkedIn is my go-to platform for enterprise communication? And is this what happens in 2016? Are we doomed by the biases and preferences we bring to technology? If we only communicate on rigid terms, will we ever communicate at all?

These questions are important to me.

Then I went on Facebook and saw a woman in my network who announced that she just subscribed to Snapchat and was having trouble figuring it out. The comments are something else. Here’s a screenshot.

SC FAIL

It’s a beautiful, elegant, post-modern digital portrait of poor communication run amok.

When you’re on Facebook complaining about Snapchat and almost nobody is being helpful, you should probably put down your mobile device and take a walk outside. Sit this one out. Be excited for the next leap in technology.

So here’s what I know: I’m on my phone reading all this shit and wondering about the impact on communications and interpersonal relationships. And I’m using one platform to watch people talk about another platform while being monitored by multiple websites that listen to me through my mobile device, track my activity, sell my information, and tell me that I matter because I’m connected.

Connected to what, exactly?

What a phenomenal waste of my time and my life. And what a waste of yours, too.

That’s why I’m taking my own advice, sitting out these minor social media iterations, and waiting for the next big thing that isn’t wrapped up in consumerism and behavioral psychology.

And I’m going outside for more walks.

You should, too.

11 Responses to Communication Fail
  1. Hung Lee

    Very good. Great writing.

  2. DA Hooligan

    I have a hard time figuring out why people who are in the same office can’t walk up to each other and have an actual conversation. Recently, my office went through some reorganization to the point where my HR job is being cut. I am an HR underling. I could see this coming two years ago when they terminated a good amount of employees. There is also a person retiring and her job and mine were sliced and diced into two new positions. One of these positions they are hiring two people for. So they get rid of two, but hire 3. The position that they are hiring two people for, clearly does not need two people. Management did not even consider talking to either of us to see what is really involved in both of our positions. I realize this is common place. When I asked my manager why we didn’t have any kind of conversation about this she reminded me that she did send me an email, asking about specific tasks and time spent on them. I replied that it might have been better to have an actual face to face discussion with the retiring person, and me, so they would know what we really do on a day to day basis. I know I am digressing off of your main topic concerning social media but it all has to do with communication, doesn’t it, and the lack of any actual real time interaction between humans? We have access to chat at work, email and phones, besides talking face to face. In my opinion none of these were utilized in the correct way and the lack of communication among staff, in general, with all the options available, Is extremely poor. Sorry to get off topic.

    • ruettimann

      I’m really sorry for this. Let me know if I can be helpful With your job search.

  3. Mary F

    This is interesting. I’m not a phone caller by nature. I am much happier typing and interacting with people online/via email/texting/etc. I am connected with more people because of social media, but I suspect it’s because I can control the frequency and duration of the interactions that way.

    And I like taking walks outside, too.

  4. George

    Communicating with strangers can be rough. Many of us carry around these idiosyncratic rules that nobody else could possibly know, but those preferences are important anyway.

    For example, I occasionally find I have to decline friend requests from co-workers on Facebook. It’s not that I don’t like them, I simply want to be able to share crazy crap with my friends without worrying that someone will take it to my boss (or her bosses). Since we are co-workers, I value the preexisting relationship enough to explain why I declined (I normally can’t be bothered).

    So our choices here are to 1) stick to our personal rules about social media or 2) accept other people’s rules about social media.

    I value my own approach, so my only choice is to tactfully enforce my own rules and do my best to reduce any hurt feelings.

  5. Ginger Dodds

    LOL

  6. Maddyq

    People who have such inflexible, self-imposed rules either lose out, or are eventually forced to change. I remember lots of folks who avoided “the web” for as long as possible – now just try existing without an email address.

    The Facebook thread isn’t terrible, IMO. At least there is some commiserating, and one or two offering help/solutions. I would feel worse if the original poster never had the courage to ask for help, to experiment and explore a new tool/form of media.

  7. Kathy

    Great post Laurie. More and more I’m seeing a narcissistic streak come out in people, e.g. communicate my way, or we won’t communicate.

    The FB example shows that people can be somewhat snarky. All she was asking for was just a little help.

    Like George, I don’t FB friend co-workers, ever. They show me their photos off their phone, and we actually talk.

    I am going to take a look at exchange.org, I’m having difficulty with Snapchat and Instagram as well 🙂 So thanks for the reference to it!

  8. Harold Mellor

    Best manager I ever work for had a rule: if you needed to connect with someone within the company who was local, no email chains, no texting – get out of your chair and talk with them face to face. Talking over lunch or coffee is better. And TALK – no Powerpoint decks or presentations to get your point across.

    Most liberating three years I had with him as my manager; TALK to your colleagues, who knew?!?

  9. Rachel

    Love that she had the time to respond to you, yet still deny the request. So odd!