Is cyber age ruining human connections?

Is cyber age ruining human connections?
Schoettle, Anthony . Indianapolis Business Journal ; Indianapolis Vol. 19, Iss. 14, (Jun 22, 1998): 19.
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High-tech communication delivery systems are streamlining the way companies do business. But some
communications experts think the cyber age is making many transactions too impersonal, and sometimes even
High-tech communication delivery systems are streamlining the way companies do business. But some
communications experts think the cyber age is making many transactions too impersonal, and sometimes even
“The misuse of electronic gadgetry is getting in the way of establishing interpersonal relationships,” said Robert
Gildea, vice president of Sease Gerig &Associates, an Indianapolis-based public relations firm.
Gildea said electronic forms of communication such as fax transmissions, e-mail and voice mail are fine for routine
exchanges of information. But when it comes to weighty matters, often involving emotional issues, Gildea said
face-to-face communication is the only way.
Gildea also criticizes business managers for diminishing customer service by overusing new communications
“It’s important to get a read on people, and e-mail and faxes don’t really get the job done,” Gildea said.
Many business people find the advantages of these new modes of communication undeniable.
“They’ve made it more efficient to do business in our environment; we’re spread out through five states,” explained
Jane Hunter. product manager for delivery systems for National City Bank. “We’re communicating with co-workers
in Pennsylvania the way we do with our coworkers down the hall.”
Myra Borshoff, president of Borshoff Johnson &Co., a local public relations firm, was quick to embrace new modes
of communication. In 1988, when her company first bought a fax machine, she predicted it would change the way
her company and others did business.
“These things have improved our ability to stay current and get things out in a timely manner,” she said.
But even staunch supporters of electronic communication believe the medium has serious pitfalls.
Borshoff admitted that her firm recently decided against an automated telephone system despite the fact it would
save the company manpower and money.
“We’ve had a real intense debate as we’ve considered a new phone system,” Borshoff said. “Now, the mind-set is
that we think it’s important to have a live person answer that phone. We want to be very sensitive to our
customers. We don’t want a situation where they get into voice mail and don’t get attended to for a period of time.”
Many companies that have opted for automated phone systems say they are more efficient for employees and
customers in the long run.
Hunter said customers calling National City Bank’s phone system can get several problems solved by calling one
number–a mission that previously took multiple calls.
Bank officials constantly study user trends with the system and update the script to make it easier to get callers
the information they seek, she said.
“Many times the customer is getting a time savings and doesn’t realize it,” Hunter said. “You just have to be
patient, listen to the script. Generally it’s going to save the customer a lot of time.”
Gildea thinks phone systems are just part of the problem. He recommends CEOs and other managers
anonymously try to communicate with their own companies to test their responsiveness. He believes if they did,
they would realize the frustration their clients often feel.
Communications experts agree that while the new forms of electronic communication are good ways to
supplement personal communication, there is a real danger in relying on them totally.
Gildea said there are two primary reasons some people rely totally on such things as e-mail, voice mail and the fax
to relay information.
“Some, I suspect, are insecure about their ability to deal with others up close and personal, especially if a situation
may produce an unpleasant outcome,” Gildea said. “Others, in my judgment, rely solely on these tools because they
want to communicate only on their own terms, at their own convenience. The possibility that their timing and
inaccessibility can be a serious inconvenience or annoyance to others apparently does not trouble them.”
There still seems to be an essential need for making human connections while doing business. People often find
they must make personal contact with clients and co-workers.
Hunter pointed out that despite the proliferation of ATMs, studies have shown that customer traffic at National
City Bank has not decreased.
“Interpersonal communication will always be a part of the business community,” Hunter predicted. “People still
want the interpersonal communication with their banker. There’s a lot that can be gleaned individually. You can
clarify things with immediate feedback, and you can just look at body language.”
Borshoff said there are certain intangibles that electronic communication will never be able to transmit.
“When we counsel clients, we often counsel in favor of face-to-face communication,” Borshoff said. “There is a
certain amount of energy and chemistry when nine or 10 people are in a room brainstorming. You can’t get that
electronically. [Electronic communication] has made our business far more efficient, but it hasn’t nor will it ever
replace face-to-face communication.”
But with the next generation of business people growing up surrounded by the cyber age, there is some question of
just how impersonal business communication will become.
“Most people growing up playing Nintendo feel more comfortable dealing with gadgets,” Gildea said. “But that may
come at a price. They may have a tendency to reduce communication to a mechanical form.”
The next generation is more technology-oriented, but they continue to embrace personal communication, Borshoff
Despite seeing her own teen-age children spend more time with computers, they “still spend time on the phone
with their friends and they still go out and do things with their friends,” she said.
“This new technology has opened doors and created opportunities we never thought possible,” Borshoff said. “But
imagine getting all your information and not having any body language. There are a lot of unspoken messages you
would never get on the computer. It’s fairly significant in how people interpret things.
“That connection can never be replaced by any kind of electronic device.”
Subject: Communications systems; High technology; Electronic mail systems; Facsimile
transmission; Criticism
Location: Indianapolis IN US North Central
Publication title: Indianapolis Business Journal; Indianapolis
Volume: 19
Issue: 14
Pages: 19
Number of pages: 0
Publication year: 1998
Publication date: Jun 22, 1998
Publisher: IBJ Corporation
Place of publication: Indianapolis
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Database copyright ï›™ 2018 ProQuest LLC. All rights reserved.
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Country of publication: United States, Indianapolis
Publication subject: Business And Economics
ISSN: 02744929
Source type: Trade Journals
Language of publication: English
Document type: PERIODICAL
Accession number: 99-14807
ProQuest document ID: 220615724
Document URL:
Copyright: Copyright IBJ Corporation Jun 22, 1998
Last updated: 2017-11-10
Database: ProQuest Central

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