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Always Connect, Even in a Digital Age

When I was a college student in the late 80's I wrote a short story set in a futuristic world. Citizens in the story lived alone in climate controlled pods quarantined from interacting physically with others. The only way individuals could have contact with other human beings was through their personal computers, a video camera, and scheduled supply deliveries. The main character yearned to connect to something bigger than himself and searched for a way to make a positive impact on his community from the isolation of his pod. Little did I know then that the fictitious world I created in 1989 would become a metaphor for the real world of 2017.

As social media, FaceTime, and texting continue to replace face to face meetings, I've found it harder to understand the true emotional impact of my work as a communicator. In the digital world, the fruits of much of my labor are measured by increased likes and shares, new followers, retweets and positive comments on a feed. Those metrics, however, deny me the pleasure of intelligently debating a volatile topic, seeing someone react with a smile or frown and looking at another human being in the eyes.

I realize that remaining engaged from the comfort and safety of my social media bubble has robbed me of the pleasure of real human discourse. The recent Presidential election taught me that if I only interact with those who like what I post on my social media feeds I will cut myself off from truly understanding the sentiment of the greater population.

As leaders of large and small purpose-driven organizations, much of the administrative work we do day to day is several degrees removed from the effect that work has on our communities, but that doesn't make our roles any less important. We must continue to put ourselves directly in front of the audiences we serve and make human interaction a priority in order to reinforce the necessity and impact of our leadership.

We must resist the temptation to overuse our digital communication tools and close ourselves off to real connection. Our oversight, strategic thinking and allocation of resources support students, artists, and entrepreneurs who discover new ways of thinking, entertain audiences, and invent future solutions to complex problems. The only way to truly know how to best support their efforts is to sit with them, see them interact with the world, and look them in the eyes. And most of all - even from the safety of our climate controlled offices - leaders living in a digital age have the power to inspire others to impact the world in a positive way.

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